Central Asia is likely to become a new arena of international interest in the 21st century, not least because of its cocktail of abundant oil and gas, Islamic jihadist groups, dictatorial regimes, and rivalry between Russia, China, Pakistan, the us and Iran. Indeed, it could become the 'new Middle East' in the sense of being a battleground for access to precious resources, for religious fundamentalism and for sectarianism and authoritarian-vs-democratic politics. Narcotics, ethnic tensions and impoverished states with, or seeking, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) further add to the instability.
During the Cold War, Central Asia appeared to be less important in strategic terms than the European Theatre or the Middle East. Its borders were largely frozen by the Soviet Union, and internal disputes were suppressed by the presence of the Communist Party apparatus. However, as Olaf Caroe, the former British Foreign Secretary of the Government of India and the last governor of the North-West Frontier Province, noted in his book Wells of Power (1951), the Central Land Mass Theatre of Asia was perhaps the most important geo-strategic zone on the planet.' The Soviets regarded Central Asia as their vulnerable southern flank and were eager to project their power into Afghanistan and the Middle East to protect the region. The Western powers regarded the whole of Southwest Asia as an oil-rich zone vital to the West's economy that was within striking distance of the Soviets. China saw its westernmost province as the most likely to secede, particularly with Soviet encouragement. It was an area that retained its strategic interest to all the major powers. There were border disputes between China and the Soviet Union in the IIi Valley in the 196o’s, nuclear-testing in Kazakhstan and in Xinjiang, and a major confrontation between the Soviets and Afghans in 1979, in which America and several Middle Eastern states participated by proxy. The decision of the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989 convinced many Islamist thinkers that they alone had driven out an empire. The subsequent fall of the Soviet Union was a turning point for Central Asia that was to have profound consequences.
The issues that have arisen since 1991 are essentially three: stability; resources and their accessibility; and jihadist terrorism. In terms of stability, the Central Asian governments have struggled to make the transition from the Communist era to one of free-market economics, to contend with political opposition groups, and to manage the aspirations and grievances of their populations. Kyrgyzstan has attempted to follow a democratic path, but this has foundered in recent years. Tajikistan endured a bloody civil war before establishing a fragile coalition government. In the last few years this too has been undermined by demands for regional autonomy, the aspiration of certain clans which wield disproportionate amounts of power, an energy crisis, and pressure from external forces, including Uzbekistan and terrorist groups. The old Communist elites of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have managed to retain their power using a fa<;ade of democracy and the hard currency of coercion. In the Caucasus, stability is more elusive. Separatists, jihadists and clan factions have fought wars for Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Dagestan, Karabakh and Chechnya. None of these conflicts have reached a final resolution.'
The issues of resources and accessibility are closely linked. The reserves of oil and gas in the region are considerable, but it is proving expensive to extract and transport these hydrocarbons to the world's markets. More complex still is the political and diplomatic horse-trading over the routes the pipelines should take. The lucrative nature of the transit fees, the prospect of creating jobs, and the strategic value of controlling the flow from the region are highly attractive. However, there is growing disquiet that the majority of Central Asians will not benefit from the oil-and-gas bonanza.3 While the economic and political elite enjoy unprecedented wealth, thousands of their compatriots are faced with high unemployment, a poor-quality diet and dependence on a casual and vulnerable kiosk economy.
Jihadists regard Central Asia as an arena where they can be influential, recruit volunteers and 'prove' their pan-Islamic credentials. After 9/11, Central Asia was regarded as the cradle of terrorism because of the abundance of training camps in Afghanistan and the fact that its trainees were drawn from across the Muslim world. After Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan was eclipsed as the main arena for international terrorist groups, including the IMT, and this remains the case despite the resurgence of the Taliban. The centre of gravity of insurgency terror has shifted to Iraq since 2003, although Afghan and Iraqi 'alumni' have re-exported their terrorist techniques to Central Asia and elsewhere. Suicide bombings and mass-casualty terrorist atrocities, hitherto unknown in the region, have been evident there since 2004. A regional study certainly makes the connections between jihadist terrorists more apparent: Chechens have fought in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan; Uighurs have killed Chinese engineers in Pakistan under Pushtun commanders; Saudis have ambushed and executed Russians in Chechnya. The links are explained by a shared ideology that is not, contrary to popular belief, directed exclusively against the West. These groups are waging war on what they perceive as threats to Islam and the Muslim ummah; they are waging war on the humiliations and injustices towards their 'brothers and sisters', and they object to arbitrary government, atheist policies and 'insults’ to their beliefs. Above all they believe they are fighting for a panIslamic caliphate, which will restore the prestige of Islam and therefore, by definition, of themselves.
Not all see this final objective of a world caliphate as something that can only be achieved by terrorism and violence. The other-worldly aspiration of a united community, respectful of Islam and purged of heresy, is the approach of Hizbut-Tahrir. A peaceful strategy has proven even more popular among thousands of disillusioned Central Asians. This yearning for a new order may not be abated simply by creating more democratic institutions, as some suggest. The experience of the Palestinian Authority, where the radical group Hamas achieved electoral success at the expense of moderates in 2005, indicates that democracy is not simply an antidote to extremism. The Central Asian republics and China have tried to cultivate a sense of national or socialist identity that can compete with the Islamist one. There have been attempts in China, as there once were in the Soviet Union, to stress the common ground between Islam and socialism, just as the West tries to do with democracy. The Chinese have also tried to undermine and subvert a sense of Uighur-Islamic identity while offering inducements to people to assimilate more comprehensively into a Sinicized society.4
Although American oil companies showed an interest in the Central Asian republics soon after their independence in 1991, with Chevron concluding a multi-billion-dollar deal with Kazakhstan for example, the us government did not regard the region as a post-Cold War priority. There was a more pressing need that year to establish workable relations with the Eastern European states and Russia, and to account for the nuclear arsenals at their disposal, it was not until the mid-1990s that there was a growing desire to get the oil and gas out of Central Asia and into world markets, but in doing so it was regarded as imperative to route the pipelines away from the jurisdiction of Russia and Iran wherever possible. However, by 1999, the emergence of the IMU, and the more prominent threat posed by Al-Qaeda and its other affiliates, forced President Bill Clinton to consider the terrorist threat in the region, and this implied seeking allies across Central Asia. However, the economic management of the region was not considered to be a matter for the American government, and it was content to let oil companies negotiate their own terms with the republics. Any idea of confronting Russia or any other state on this issue was regarded as a zero-sum game, and Americans believed that conflict resolution was essential for the prosperity of the region as a whole.5 Washington expressed a hope that free societies would develop, but it was clear that it did not envisage any intervention. America did not intervene in the Afghan Civil War to bring that conflict to a conclusion, seeing the matter as an issue for the UN. Similarly, the us did not playa part in the conclusion of the Tajik Civil War, or the Azeri-Armenian conflict, which it saw as issues lying in the Russian sphere. Any deals with Iran were unlikely too, but equally there were no moves to establish military alliances with any of the new republics, although there was a transfer of limited military aid.
For the Americans, there was, however, a growing interest in the IMU - particularly its links to Al-Qaeda, its drug-trafficking and the growth of regional terrorism. A counter-terrorism conference was convened in Washington in 2000 which involved most of the Central Asian republics. Subsequently $3 billion worth of aid was sent to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for counter-insurgency. There were joint exercises with the armies of these states and the deployment of valuable high-tech surveillance equipment. Uzbek officers and Special Forces teams from each of the republics were given training in the us. In some cases there was training alongside the Russians too, and in 2000 there had been a joint Russian-American working group on counter-terrorism. Nevertheless, it was not until the administration of George W. Bush and the attacks on the us on 11 September 2001 that a willingness to intervene directly in the region became manifest.
However, those who tended to speak of a 'new Great Game' as a way to describe rivalry between Washington, Moscow and the Central Asia states at this time failed to acknowledge that, in fact, the label was inappropriate. The issues bear almost no similarity to those of the nineteenth century, and the idea of American-Russian co-operation in counter-terrorism, the spectacular financial deals over oil resources, and the global reach of jihadists from heavily defended but remote bases in Afghanistan have no equivalent in the older struggle.
Indeed, in contrast to all the old certainties of the Soviet past, Russia faced an uncertain future in 1991. Contending with economic dislocation, Boris Yeltsin regarded Central Asia as a drain and looked to the wealth of Europe for Russia's salvation. Although Russian nationalists and Communist hardliners wanted the Soviet empire back, Moscow cut the republics adrift. The attitude of the Central Asian leaders was ambivalent. On the one hand, they needed Russian support and commerce and were fearful of the democratic forces the collapse of the Soviet Union had unleashed. However, there was also a strong anti-Russian sentiment after seven decades of alien government. But Russian views of Central Asia began to change too, especially in light of events in Chechnya. Having lost 4,000 men in an effort to prevent the separatism of one strategically important province between 1994 and 1996, Russia was eager to keep out foreign influences and retain the Central Asian states in a commonwealth dominated by Moscow. Russians reinforced their distaste of Islamism in the Chechen conflict and were eager to face down the challenge posed by jihadist terrorists in the region. In fact, the heavy civilian casualties in the Chechen conflict and in Tajikistan's civil war produced fear and anger in both Russia and Central Asia. The pattern of conflict in Chechnya and Tajikistan had been one of internal disorder, Russian intervention, civil war and Russian control. Other Central Asian governments were concerned that this sequence of events could also happen to them.
There was indignation in Moscow that the West was critical of the conduct of Russian forces in Chechnya. There was also deep suspicion, a legacy of the Cold War perhaps, that the West was showing interest in pipelines and oil resources in the former Soviet Union. The Russians were eager to influence Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and, initially, they resented Western diplomatic overtures and economic ventures there. President Putin, however, saw the need for co-operation with the us. He was eager to gain support for the second war in Chechnya in 1999, but he failed to win much sympathy when he was so outspoken in his criticism of Muslim extremism. The Central Asian leaders were equally unsupportive.
Karimov was determined to keep Russia as an ally for Uzbekistan but also to assert the independence of his country. This has tended to produce inconsistency: in February 1999, he abandoned the CIS security pact in favour of GUUAM, the pro-Western alliance.6 Nevertheless, in December that year, he concluded a new bilateral agreement with Russia. The following June he permitted Russia to control Uzbek air space, but just three months later he announced that Uzbekistan no longer required protection - and everyone knew he had directed his remarks at Russia. In May 2001, Karimov rejected membership of the CIS security pact and customs union, making critical remarks about Russian forces in Tajikistan. When Russia got Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Tajik approval for a rapid-reaction force to deal with the IMT, the Uzbeks refused to join it, which suggested Karimov that regarded it an excuse to deploy Russian troops anywhere in the region and perhaps lead to a permanent presence in his country. Karimov was just as inconsistent with his policy towards the Taliban. He accused the Russians of exaggerating the Afghan threat and decided to hold talks with Kabul. When his negotiations failed, he was vehement in his condemnation of the Taliban regime. Uzbekistan needed to co-operate with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan against the IMT, but the Uzbek security forces pursued IMT groups across the borders without permission and opened fire on their territories, causing fatalities. Yet Karimov has been critical and dismissive of the efforts of his two neighbors in their counter-terror campaigns. Russia too has been noticeably unsupportive of Kyrgyzstan, even though it has borne the brunt of IMT attacks.
Similarly, Turkmenistan refused to follow Moscow's line, insisting that it was a neutral state, but that has not left it immune from Russian pressure. It agreed to the deployment of Russian troops along the Iranian border, and it has faced the threat of its pipelines to Europe being cut off (they are routed through Russia) and its exports being refused entry to Russia, its chief market. Although Turkmenistan sold fuel to the Taliban regime, it tended to support the anti-Taliban United Front during the Mghan Civil War and hoped for the construction of a trans-Mghan gas pipeline to the Pakistani port of Gwadar to reduce its dependence on Russia. The death of Niyasov will be seen as an opportunity by Russia for greater influence, but it will also be regarded as a chance for the IMT, Hizb ut-Tahrir and jihadist fighters to influence the country or use it as a conduit. Iran too will want to ensure that a stable and friendly regime is established to the north, particularly as it already feels encircled by (pro) Western forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan'?
The Kazakh government believes that its hydrocarbon wealth will provide useful leverage with Russia, the us and China. The government has tended to accept American investment but staunchly refused either to offer any more democracy to its people or to improve its record on human rights, or to tackle corruption, which appears to be worst at the very highest levels of the administration. Kazakhstan has a large ethnic Russian population and is dependent, at present, on Russian pipelines. N azarbaev is conscious of Russia's military power poised across the border, but he is eager to use that power against any IMT threat. To balance this dependence, the government has looked for Western military assistance. Nevertheless, the Kazakhs cannot afford to alienate Russia entirely, and this tempers their dealings with the West and with China.
There is considerable difference of opinion on China's strategic trends with almost as many projections as there are policy researchers. The dismissive of the efforts of his two neighbors in their counter-terror campaigns. Russia too has been noticeably unsupportive of Kyrgyzstan, even though it has borne the brunt of IMT attacks.
Similarly, Turkmenistan refused to follow Moscow's line, insisting that it was a neutral state, but that has not left it immune from Russian pressure. It agreed to the deployment of Russian troops along the Iranian border, and it has faced the threat of its pipelines to Europe being cut off (they are routed through Russia) and its exports being refused entry to Russia, its chief market. Although Turkmenistan sold fuel to the Taliban regime, it tended to support the anti-Taliban United Front during the Afghan Civil War and hoped for the construction of a trans-Afghan gas pipeline to the Pakistani port of Gwadar to reduce its dependence on Russia. The death of Niyasovwill be seen as an opportunity by Russia for greater influence, but it will also be regarded as a chance for the IMT, Hizb ut-Tahrir and jihadist fighters to influence the country or use it as a conduit. Iran too will want to ensure that a stable and friendly regime is established to the north, particularly as it already feels encircled by (pro) Western forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan'?
The Kazakh government believes that its hydrocarbon wealth will provide useful leverage with Russia, the us and China. The government has tended to accept American investment but staunchly refused either to offer any more democracy to its people or to improve its record on human rights, or to tackle corruption, which appears to be worst at the very highest levels of the administration. Kazakhstan has a large ethnic Russian population and is dependent, at present, on Russian pipelines. Nazarbae',f is conscious of Russia's military power poised across the border, but he is eager to use that power against any IMT threat. To balance this dependence, the government has looked for Western military assistance. Nevertheless, the Kazakhs cannot afford to alienate Russia entirely, and this tempers their dealings with the West and with China.
There is considerable difference of opinion on China's strategic trends with almost as many projections as there are policy researchers. The disagreement over China's intentions is deepened by the country's secretive approach to policy formulation and a degree of double-speak in official announcements. What is clear is that China's policy towards Central Asia is driven by the dual needs of maintaining its internal security against Uighur activists and providing for its burgeoning energy needs. The external supply of weapons and support to the Uighurs is of grave concern. In 2000, the Chinese authorities claimed to have confiscated 4,100 kilograms of dynamite, 2,723 kilograms of other explosives, 604 illegal small arms and 31,000 rounds of ammunition, and much of this they suspected had come from sources outside China.8 With a proliferation of terrorist, separatist and other groups, Beijing deployed at least 200,000 additional troops to Xinjiang. There were particular concerns that Uighurs were being trained and slipping across the borders from Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and that sympathizers in the other Central Asian states were supporting them. There were warnings to the Central Asian governments that trade and investment could be jeopardized if no action was taken against Uighur groups. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have complied with this demand on several occasions in the last decade. However, China is careful not to apply too much pressure to the Central Asian states lest they look towards the us and Russia for support. China's overriding concern is that, should any of their neighboring states be overthrown by Islamists, as Afghanistan was, then there is a distinct risk that Xinjiang would also fall into the hands of extremists. China's Central Asian policy is, to a large extent, driven by this anxiety about its internal security. The Uighurs have interpreted China's policies as a thinly veiled attempt to destroy Islam in Xinjiang altogether, and there is certainly a strong secularizing element in Beijing's agenda.
China's energy needs also determine its policy in Central Asia and look likely to do so with even greater importance in the future. Oil and gas will be the energy sources that underpin all of China's industries for the next few decades because there is almost no investment in alternative sources. However, as Xinjiang's supplies have begun to dwindle, the projections are that, even at a conservative estimate of growth of 7 per cent per year, China will have to import 45 per cent of its oil by 2010. However, some predict that China's consumption will exceed these estimates, leading to an energy crisis.
China has been eager to assert greater control over the hydrocarbon resources of Central Asia and will do, perhaps more aggressively, in the future. It has purchased several oil fields, the most important of which is China National Petroleum Company's (CNPC) acquisition in Kazakhstan for $5 billion elsewhere. It has invested more than $9 billion in pipelines to the borders, and it has begun to buy the shares of other companies. Sinopec Corporation (China Petroleum Corporation) paid British Gas $615,000,000 for a stake in Kazakhstan's gas fields, and CNOOC, China's third-largest oil company, bought an 8-per-cent share of the British North Caspian Sea Project for a similar $600,000,000 fee. However, despite these and future purchases, it is estimated that Central Asia will not be able to meet the needs of the Chinese economy. Central Asia will therefore become an important transit route for pipelines from the Middle East. It is believed that, by 2010, 45 per cent of the world's oil production will come from the Middle East, and there is a strong chance that Iran will playa key role in the development of the Chinese share. Beijing has been careful not to criticize Iranian politics in the way the West has done, and it has been silent on the issue of an Iranian nuclear programme. There have been discussions on Sino-Iranian pipeline projects which Tehran believes could eliminate its dependency on Russian routes and Western markets. Chinese-built pipelines would link into the Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan systems, and cross over into Xinjiang. However, the astronomical costs of developing such a network, and the vulnerability of pipelines to terrorist attack, have led to speculation that China will try to develop the Iranian port facilities at Bandas Abbas and sea routes to East Asia. Such is the growing importance of Iran to China that it is likely to oppose American moves against Tehran. Moreover, if the sea route is selected, we may expect to see a far greater emphasis on the Chinese navy and its capabilities as it seeks to protect this line of communication. The enormous demand for oil and gas may make it imperative for China to develop both the Central Asian pipelines and the sea-lanes options simultaneously.
China appears to be extending its influence over Central Asia without recourse to military means by using the power of its commerce. China has begun to replace low-quality Russian goods with cheap manufactures. To penetrate the market, it has granted Kyrgyzstan a loan of $5.7 million, and Tajikistan $5 million, to purchase Chinese products. China has also invested heavily in Central Asia. The Xinhua News Agency claimed that China's investments in the region totalled $500,000,000, dwarfing the Central Asian republics own investments.9 Chinese investors argue that they will increase their trade inside Central Asia by thirty to fifty times in the next ten years. Much of China's investment has been in infrastructure, particularly road and rail links, as it seeks to improve the avenues of commercial penetration. Weapons and specialist anti-terrorism equipment have also been the subject of investment as China pursues its goal of improving the relationship and co-operation between the Central Asian states against disruptive terrorist groups, and exploiting the resources of the region. However, this twin-track policy is not without its risks. The dominance of Chinese goods can cause resentment, particularly when local industries are destroyed. The supply of weapons can also create instability within the republics as it encourages military solutions to political grievances. Moreover, trading relationships and military support cannot entirely overcome popular sympathy for the Muslims of Xinjiang. Nevertheless, China seems to be trying to avoid the traditional appellation of 'sphere of influence' or even dingwei (living space) in Central Asia. It does not want the responsibility of directi~ the republics and prefers only to consider security co-operation and the acquisition of resources. Both of these are closely linked to China's domestic future: popular political unrest and an economic crisis would together bring down the regime and condemn the country to the sort of chaos that afflicted it between 1911 and 1949.
There is no doubt that China is growing in importance in the region. It has established bilateral trade agreements with the republics since 1991 but carefully avoided security alliances which might mean unwelcome commitments. However, the attacks of the IMT and their support of the militant Uighurs have forced China to review this policy. China has been successful in demanding that the Central Asian states act against Uighur critics and organizations, closing down offices and publications and arresting individuals. It has persuaded the Pakistani government to co-operate, to deport suspects and to permit Chinese intelligence operatives to work inside Pakistan. The borders of China are now closely monitored, but there has been a concerted effort to end old disputes with Russia and to reduce the garrisons there. There have been successful joint border commissions with Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and only the Tajik borders await a final demarcation - the delay being caused by the existence of gold deposits which both sides claim. One of the most successful meetings of the Shanghai Five in 1996 produced demilitarized borders, providing a 120-kilometre-wide transparency zone and joint patrols. There have been annual meetings ever since, agreeing policies against drugs, Islamic extremism and the secret transit of weapons and explosives from Afghanistan.
Jihadist violence has, ironically, generated a stronger unity among the Central Asian states, including China. China is now a source of military assistance, just like the us. In 2000 and 2001, China donated $1.3 million to Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan in military and technical equipment, including sniper rifles for border guards. From 2000 there has been a Chinese-inspiredjoint counter-terrorism centre in Bishkek. In 2001 Uzbekistan joined what is now known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (sea). Trade and investment have increased, and there is more co-ordination in military and security matters. Above all, the Chinese government knows that it has to tackle jihadist groups beyond its borders as well as internally. Whether it has the right combination of policies, however, remains to be seen.
Paradoxically, the jihadist threat has united Russia, America and China against a common enemy, although some of the old suspicions remain, and relations have been strained over energy security and coalition operations in Iraq. When American forces arrived in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in 2001, the Chinese were quick to stage a large-scale military exercise in Xinjiang, and extra border troops were deployed. Visitors from Pakistan and Afghanistan, the most likely avenue for agents working for the West to use, were also banned for a short period. Russia too is anxious about any permanent American military presence in the region but is no less concerned about Chinese influence being extended. The Central Asian republics are eager to keep the larger powers at arm's length, and there has been a reluctant to co-operate when their own minorities' interests have been at stake But they are also conscious of their need for the financial, technical and military support of America, China and Russia. Nevertheless, the u: and China have shared intelligence on the IMT and the Uighur militants. The record of American and Russian co-operation over oil and gas resources also points to collaboration rather than confrontation being the way forward, and this can only be of benefit to the people 0 Central Asia. The critical question is whether China can also now read this level of co-operation.
China's long-term intentions are concerned with other issues that affect its domestic security or that have remained unresolved for decades. The future of Taiwan and the possibility of an armed confrontation then its relationships with North Korea and its old rival Japan, its influence in South-east Asia, and the decline of Russia's strength on the Pacific seaboard and in Central Asia are all considered important. However despite the tendency of some American analysts to see China as belligerent rival in what may be a new Cold War, China has certain priorities which allow us to read its intentions more accurately. Above all, the Chinese political elite is eager to protect its exclusive hold on power, an internal security will continue to be high on its policy agenda. Second China must sustain its growth to meet the basic economic needs of th majority and thus avoid unrest, and this makes the acquisition (resources critical. Third, China will seek to preserve the military status quo of its neighbors and, where possible, reduce the presence of the u China's assessment is that it is encircled by the us, particularly when the Central Asian republics appear sympathetic to Washington (bases we] recently established in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan). Some America analysts argue that China is trying its best to oust America from Central Asia altogether and that its sea is, in fact, an anti-American organization The sea's announcement that it opposed 'interference in other countries’ internal affairs' and that 'models of social development, a reference to America's desire for global democratization] should not be exported have been interpreted as a warning to Washington, but they could equally be a genuine expression of anxiety, particularly in light of America's recent interventionist operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.10
While the original charter of the sea appears to be a classic example of collective security, each member is obliged to help only against terrorism, separatists or extremists - there is no mention of other powers. Joint military operations are small in scale compared with those that China carries out on its own, and hardly suggest an equivalent of NATO in Asia. The maneuvers are designed to be confidence-building activities, and they help to cement a common desire to defeat insurgent threats; they also reflect China's fear that the us might exploit unrest in Xinjiang or Central Asia as a pretext for intervention. Ultimately, Beijing may come to realise that the best way to prevent American support for separatists and to secure its economic future is to grant concessions to the Uighurs, but for the foreseeable future it wants to remove the Islamist problem and therefore any reason for an American presence in the region.
In terms of capabilities, China is often regarded as far weaker than the us, and Chinese authors tend to disparage the 'China Threat Theory' as an 'elaborate and sinister deception' that would be used to justify American action against their country.'! Some American analysts conclude that China is still too poor, too backward and too focussed on economic development to be a threat. The fact that the PLA was reduced from 7,000,000 in the 1980s to 3,000,000 in 2001 tends to support this idea. Nevertheless, traditionalists in the Chinese armed forces continue to advocate a strategy of 'people's war' - that is, a total-war approach to any conflict with another major power. They emphasize the need for a large standing army, an efficient mobilization system and technologies which do not depend on foreign imports. The technological level of the PLA and their likely performance nevertheless remain the subject of considerable controversy.12 Indeed, it seems that there is also considerable debate within the Chinese military and political elite itself about the strategy to follow. Challenging the traditionalists are those who advocate a Revolution in Military Affairs, a technologically driven set of new strategies and doctrines which not only emulate but 'leapfrog' Western capabilities. Judging by the tone of their writings, this group was largely unsuccessful until the late 1990S. However, there is another school of thought, known as the 'Local War' advocates, who demand an evolutionary approach to military changes and that the basis of China's strategy should be the assumption that its wars are likely to occur on or near its borders. One of the key zones of interest for this group is the vulnerable coastal region, the historical invasion route for China's enemies.
The solution to the division of opinion over China's future strategy appears to be resolved by three issues: the decline of Russia in Central and East Asia; the doctrine of Shi (Propensity), which suggests that apparently inferior forces can defeat superior ones; and the secret development of a range of 'Assassin's Mace' weapon systems. The coincidence of these three factors looks likely to influence Chinese policy and planning for the next few decades.
For China, the decline of Russia as the dominant power in Central Asia serves as a reminder of how not to manage the process of transition from the Marxist-Leninist system. China regards Russia as an energy and trade rival in the region, but it has been satisfied with its ability to assert itself over Russian interests since 2000. The difficulty for Moscow in persuading Slavs to migrate into the Pacific territories of Russia and the economic decline experienced there have added to China's confidence that its northern and western borders are more secure than they were in the Cold War years. That said, the second-largest concentration of air and ground forces in China still protects the northern and north-eastern approaches. However, there is more emphasis on the 'Inferior Defeats Superior' doctrine when it comes to general defence. This doctrine places considerable emphasis on excellent intelligence (and thus the ability to anticipate an enemy's actions), deception, the disruption of coalitions, the development of a secret counter-coalition, and an effectively timed decisive strike. Increasingly the decisive strike appears to be framed in terms of the Assassin's Mace systems. These take the form of anti-satellite weapons, tactical laser weapons and stealth technology, as well as computer platforms or electromagnetic-pulse weapons to attack radio, radar, electronic and other communications or surveillance systems. The concept embraces the use of nuclear weapons, Special Forces and missile batteries but also the development of the next generation of biological weapons (known as Genetic or DNA weapons).
Despite the obvious concerns about a new Cold War, it should be remembered that China's strategic thinking is underpinned by anxieties about American encirclement, internal unrest (which might be exploited by Islamists, separatists or foreign powers) and the exponential growth of its energy needs. China needs to continue its economic integration with the world and wants to improve its relationship, both commercial and military, with the Central Asian states. It has more to lose by jeopardizing the status quo. Nevertheless, the regime will fight to retain its exclusive grip on power, and there is every indication that it will continue to bear down hard on Uighurs it suspects of separatism or terrorism. Moreover, the growing needs of the economy may force Beijing into a more assertive and hard-line stance in both its internal affairs and its foreign policy. The development of its military strategy and armed forces attempts to take account of every future contingency.
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the Arab States
There are links between the ethnic groups of Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, with Turkmen, Uzbeks and Tajiks making up the populations in the north. There are also cultural and historic connections which were truncated by the creation of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. The IMU was based and partly financed in Afghanistan, making use of common traditions of hospitality, resistance to outsiders and the patronage of their more wealthy backers like Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda regarded Afghanistan as an ideal base from which to project its power, its ideas and a 'holy war' into the wider world. The country was awash with weapons and drug-money. The Soviet War and civil war had provided the personnel with contacts across the Muslim world, making Afganistan an ideal starting point for a global jihad. It was also a location loaded with significance: the place where, they believed, they had defeated the Soviet Union. But the Taliban, and therefore Al-Qaeda, could never have become so well established without the backing of Pakistan, more specifically, the ISI.
The Taliban had been dependent on exploiting the funding of the us and Arab states in the Soviet War. They were also the beneficiaries of a particularly strident indoctrination in the Salafi-Madhrassahs of Pakistan. The civil war and its outcome nevertheless convinced them that their victory was part of a divine mission.
The Taliban, dominated by Pushtuns and augmented by 'foreign fighters', was never representative of all Afghans in the way that the Loya Jirga now is. The Taliban persecuted the Shia Afghans of Hazara, effectively drove out tribal elders from other clans and waged war on the ethnic groups of the north who were represented by warlords like Dostum and Masoud. The Taliban were only really supported because they overran most of the country and promised to end the endemic corruption that plagued it. Warlords and brigandage were common. But it was not long before the draconian punishments of the Taliban, with their own merciless version of Shari a law, became an unbearable regime of terror and oppression. Women and minority groups suffered particularly badly. The Taliban were rather ignorant of world affairs and barely understood the sort of aspirations held by bin Laden and his confederates. Yet they did share a desire to purge the Muslim world of heresies and foreign influences. What they failed to offer was anything constructive. There was no programme of reconstruction for a country in ruins. The Taliban offered only the waging of war against infidels and heretics, and a celebration of heroic death. Their defeat was a liberation for the Afghans, but the costs of rebuilding the country are vast, and there is some evidence to suggest that the opportunity to maintain the trust and support of the coalition powers that intervened so dramatically in 2001 will be lost. The Taliban are attempting to regroup, to recruit Afghans against the foreign forces and to disrupt the pace of reconstruction. The West has the capability to defeat the Taliban militarily, but whether Western leaders have the stamina to endure a long insurgency, particularly in light of the unpopular operations in Iraq, is another matter.13
Pakistan has played a crucial part in the region's affairs in recent years. Gen. Zia's Islamization policy of the 1970S did much to radicalize the armed forces, security services and religious parties. Fearful of separatism and the public's dislike of a military regime, Zia tried to popularize his government. The Pakistani military regime was responsible for the ISI'S backing of the radical Afghan warlord Hekmatyr and then, through the orchestration of Gen. Musharraf, the Taliban. Musharraf's policy was deeply unpopular among the Central Asian governments, and it was with some relief, no doubt, that Pakistan was forced to cut off Mullah Omar's legions in 2001 following American pressure. Musharraf has had to pursue a delicate policy line since, avoiding the total alienation of his people by moving carefully and gradually against the madrassahs and religious groups while not appearing to foliow Washington's dictates too closely. Despite accusations from some Western sources that he failed to pursue AI-Qaeda with vigour, there have been more arrests of their personnel in Pakistan than in any other country. Moreover, Musharrafhas launched two campaigns into Waziristan against Taliban strongholds. However, he has been unable or unwilling to remove militant leaders from the North-West Frontier Province, or from Balochistan, because he knows that they enjoy considerable popular support. Pakistani forces were withdrawn from Waziristan in 2006 when it became clear that his troops were being drawn into a protracted dispute with local armed groups and tribal factions rather than the leadership of Al-Qaeda.14 Nevertheless, it is evident that thousands of Pushtun fighters who belonged to the Taliban, members of Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups have sought refuge in Pakistan's north-west.
The Pakistani madrassahs also continue to produce zealots for the Islamist cause. These huge complexes have always offered an education, but Saudi influence and funding encouraged more radical religious instruction to predominate. With the inspiration of the Iranian Revolution and a mythology of global Muslim oppression, Pakistani madrassahs produced a particularly passionate world-view. For the Pakistani government there were concerns over the possibility of Pushtuns breaking away to form an independent Pushtunistan, and the instability of Afghanistan on their western border required some resolution. Faced with a long-mnning dispute with India over Kashmir, and the much larger Indian armed forces, Pakistan's leaders were eager to create strategic depth by clandestine or proxy means. The Kargil Operations of 1999 in Kashmir and the support for the Taliban in 1996 had much in common. Intelligence and Special Forces were deployed alongside irregular units trained, equipped and supplied by the Pakistani army. In the case of Kargil, Musharraf was the chief planner, and, despite denials, Indian analysts believed they have exposed the subtefuge.15 The most important outcome ofboth operations, however, was that the Pakistanis lost control of their proteges.
Not all of Pakistan's involvement with Central Asia has been so negative. Nawaz Sharif tried to build trade links with the Central Asian republics, and there were negotiations over pipelines, investment and development. Benazir Bhutto, the liberal Premier, also hoped that the Taliban would establish a peaceful order in Afghanistan, and that, if a good relationship could be maintained, it might be possible to extend trade and pipelines to Turkmenistan, if not the other states. However, Bhutto was undermined by her own intelligence services and by radical elements within the administration, especially at the provincial level. The ISI gave refuge to the IMU'S leader, Yuldeshev, in the 1990S and allowed Namangani to visit Pakistan, where he was able to make contact with other jihadists. The ISI may have calculated that, by supporting the IMU, it could weaken the Central Asian republics but could promote Pakistan as a 'mediator', thus increasing its diplomatic leverage in the region. With so many in Pakistan sympathetic to Islamist thinking, the ISI had a distinct advantage. However, it never gained control over the IMU. Namangani and Yuldeshev were able to draw on Saudi funds, drug revenue and an arsenal of Afghan weaponry which made them independent of Pakistan's influence. Their agenda was also quite distinct from that of Pakistan anyway.
Musharraf's apparent shift to a pro-Western stance, embracing the Global War on Terror, has made any subsequent relationship unlikely. However, contrary to Islamist propaganda, the majority in Pakistan support his decision to oppose terrorism. Pakistan has been plagued with sectarian violence, and its people have been subjected to a number of terrorist outrages. Although Islamists have tried to mobilize the people with street protests and inflammatory literature, they have failed. Indeed, the prospects of a pipeline across Afghanistan or Iran to the new port at Gwadar make co-operation with the Central Asian republics more likely in the future. The rapprochement with India in 2004 over Kashmir, the banning of certain extremist groups and continuing investigations to hunt down Al-Qaeda figures in the country make collaboration with Central Asia over security issues more likely too.
Iran has also been active in Central Asian affairs. In November 1991, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati visited the five republics to establish diplomatic relations. Turkmenistan, as the closest of the Central Asian states, was offered an alternative outlet for its natural gas, a new pipeline and a rail link at the border. However, Karimov so disliked the Iranians that he cancelled several potential deals. This can be explained by Tehran's tendency for intervention. In the Afghan Civil War, the Iranians supplied and backed their own Shia Afghan faction. Following Taliban massacres, the Iranians were eager to monitor events in their neighbour's failed state. In the Tajikistan conflict, the Iranians also briefly backed the lRP but pulled out to avoid a clash with the Russians when they joined the fighting. However, what really riled the Uzbek authorities was Iran's willingness to permit the IMU to broadcast on its media. Iranian intelligence officers also met with Yuldeshev and gave him funds in the hope of using him against the Taliban and Pushtun Sunni radicals. The failure of this bid drove the IMU more firmly into the arms of the Taliban and, by default, towards Al-Qaeda.
Iran sought to project its influence to contain Sunni radicalism (which it regarded as a threat), to contain Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and to deter Israel and American from intervention in the Persian Gulf. Between 1989 and 1993, Tehran also developed close relations with Moscow, purchasing missile technology and nuclear-energy expertise. In 2006, Iran found itself subject to UN sanctions for refusing to heed restrictions to its nuclear programme, namely the alleged enrichment of uranium to weapons grade. Iran remains defiant. It has supported Hezbollah against Israel, supplying it with advanced military technology including batteries of missiles. It has test-fired weapons in the Persian Gulf. It has snatched Coalition troops close to its border (allegedly for espionage) and has been accused of supplying radical Iraqi Shia groups, including the notorious Sadr Army, with explosives and weapons with which to fight the British forces around Basra by proxy.16 Nonetheless, Iran feels encircled by pro-Western powers. It believes that Israel is armed with American nuclear weapons and knows that Pakistan, also an ally of the us, is similarly armed. American and Western forces are deployed on almost every border, and us warships patrol the Persian Gulf. Internally, it is fearful of a CIAinspired coup and anxious about growing public dissatisfaction with authoritarian, theocratic rule. With large numbers of Iranians too young to remember the Revolution of 1979, or care for its idealism, Iran feels isolated and under threat. Critically, its economy is also now also under pressure. Projected oil revenue has not been realized, unemployment has risen, and it now faces sanctions on other goods.17
Turkey, by contrast, has moved steadily closer to Europe and appears to be poised to join the European Union. It has tried to argue that, as a Muslim state, it can provide an important bridge between Europe and South-west and Central Asia. In 1991, it sought to influence Central Asia, hoping to exploit its linguistic, ethnic and historic connections. There were some who recalled with nostalgia and pride the Seljuks, the Ottomans and Pan-Turkic ideologues of the past. Enver Pasha, who had coveted ideas of a new Turkish empire from the Mediterranean to China in the early twentieth century, had tried to lead the Basmachi of Central Asia on the first step, a rebellion in the Pamirs that ended with tragic results. Afghanistan's Amir Amanullah had also been influenced by the Turkish model in his reforms of the 1920S, and many had once regarded Ataturk as a modernizing, secular leader within an Islamic context that could be emulated for success. In the early 1990S, it was hoped that Turkish businesspeople would have a distinct advantage when it came to making deals with the new republics. Central Asian leaders also appeared to favour the modern Turkish model of government. Some madrassahs were established along Turkish - that is, non-radical-lines. Turkish television channels were beamed into Central Asian cafes and homes. Scholarships were granted in Turkish educational institutions. The Turks loaned $1.2 billion for development and construction. Many of the exiles from the authoritarian persecution of Xinjiang and the republics also chose to live in Turkey.
However, Turkish Islamic radicalism has also increased in the last decade. Terrorist attacks on the Turkish state, and Western interests there, have been more frequent. These attacks have made Central Asian leaders cautious about adopting the Turkish model.'s For its part, Turkey's intelligence services have shown considerable interest in the Central Asian opposition groups, not just in case of regime change but also because there are so many Central Asian exiles in their homeland. Turkey has offered the Central Asian governments military assistance, and the Turkish armed forces train Uzbek and Kyrgyz officers. On the civilian side, Turkish investment in Central Asia has been smaller than the government anticipated, partly because of corruption in the region but also because of concerns that so few democratic and economic reforms have been carried out there. However, as a NATO member and an ally of the us, Turkey, like Pakistan, has much to offer Central Asia, not least in providing a balance to Russian and Chinese influence.
Saudi Arabia has earned a reputation for supporting the most fundamentalist Islamic movements in Central Asia. After 1991, the Saudi government showed little interest in the region, but charities and Islamists were more proactive. They made funding available for the building of mosques and madrassahs, for Islamic literature and sponsorship of the hadj. Their intention was to recruit Central Asians to their conservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, and they saw their work as a missionary effort. However, some of their proteges have gone far beyond what their original sponsors would have sanctioned, joining movements like Hizb ut-Tahrir and even the IMT. Saudi citizens also filled the ranks of jihadist organizations, notably as 'foreign fighters' in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya. The Saudi government has also tended to back more extreme Islamist factions: Hekmatyr in the Afghan Civil War; the Taliban (until it sided with Al-Qaeda in 1996), and elements of the 1RP who went on to become IMT men.
The Saudi authorities have also made little attempt to prevent private funding for extremists as long as they are active outside the kingdom. There have been accusations that the Saudi regime buys off its potential opponents, including Palestinian radicals and its own dissident community. This policy, driven by a concern not to alienate the ulema of the country, may, if true, backfire on the regime.'9 The Arab members of the IMT and Al-Qaeda are committed to returning to Saudi Arabia to overthrow the monarchy. As in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Indonesia, the militants are turning against their government at home. The West, which is dependent on Saudi oil and conscious of the religious-cultural sensitivities of the country, is reluctant to intervene in internal politics. There were, however, serious concerns after 9/11 when it was realized that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis. The Saudi government, as ever fearful of the domestic reaction, refused to allow an American investigation on their soil. Nevertheless, American complaints and the release of details of the government's funding activities forced the Saudis to carry out their own internal investigations. These events, and recent terrorist attacks in the kingdom, will make the Saudi government more cautious about its support for Islamist groups in the future.
The Gulf States will also be forced to review their polices in light of the Global War on Terror and operations in Iraq. In the past, the UAE has given haven to Al-Qaeda, Taliban and IMT personnel, and the state is accused of permitting money-laundering and arms- and drug-smuggling to take place within its borders. However, the fact is that the Gulf States are also favorably disposed towards the West, which they regard as their biggest consumer. By remaining neutral in the Global War on Terror, focusing only on their commercial status in oil production' refining and transit, the Gulf States hope to avoid the violence and disruption affecting other regions. However, overall there has been a disappointing reaction to Islamic terrorism in Central Asia from the OiC, which represents all Islamic nations. The reason for this is simply that the organization lacks unity. It may be that, until jihadist terrorism begins to make a critical impact on the governments of the Muslim world, there will be little coordinated action, a situation which, to a lesser extent, mirrors that in Central Asia.
Oil production in the Caspian is expected to reach 4,000,000 bpd by 2010, a spectacular increase from barely 1,000,000 bpd in 1997. In addition the region is thought to possess proven reserves of 7-1O trillion cubic meters (236-337 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas. Heralded the republics as the new 'Oil Dorado', Western and Russian companies have been quick to conclude contracts with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. The landlocked nature of the region does, however, mean that, to reach the world's markets, there needs to be considerable investment in pipelines (an estimated $50 billion by 2010). The old Soviet lines are aged and in need of renovation or expansion, and the Americans are eager to route new pipelines out of Russian and Iranian orbits. For their part, the Central Asian states are also eager to diversify their pipeline routes, both for energy security (in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes and man-made problems like wars and terrorism) and to reduce their dependence on Russia. The first new pipeline, from Baku to Supsa on the Black Sea coast of Georgia, was opened in 1999. The Tengiz-Novorossiysk pipeline, which is within Russian territory, was completed in 2001.
Despite some dire predictions of conflict over the world's diminishing oil resources, there are encouraging signs of collaboration and co-operation so far.20 Chevron concluded a $20 billion joint venture with the Kazakh government in 1993, and Exxon Mobil has subsequently joined the consortium. The CPC combines this Tenghizchevroil group with Russia's Lukoil. Azerbaijan's state oil company, SOCAR, has also embraced the collaboration of Amoco, BP, Lukoil, Unocal, Pennzoil, Statoil and some other businesses to create the Azerbaijan International Operating Company. French oil companies have joined American and British firms in exploiting other Azeri fields in the Caspian.
This co-operation reflects a similar improvement in American-Russian relations over the region. They remain competitors, and openly so, but perhaps not in the confrontational style of the Cold War. American government officials also disapprove, rightly it seems, of the analogies with the Great Game.2l Although Russia and America have considered their strategic interests, including energy security, in their preferences for the routing of pipelines, commercial interests will influence the final decisions. The most cost-effective and financially realistic routes will be the ones that get built; the most profitable routes will be the ones that will be sustained. Russia and the us share a desire for stability in the region, since both stand to lose billions if terrorism and conflict disrupt the supply of oil and gas. It is this common aim that may force them, and others, to co-operate in the future. Despite the financial bonanza oil and gas revenues have brought the economic and political elites of the Caspian and Central Asian states, the majority of the population live in relative poverty. The new rich import European and American cars, wear designer clothes and frequent fashionable bars and hotels. They own rural properties as well as urban ones, open overseas bank accounts and live in ostentatious luxury. In Kyrgyzstan, the World Bank report of 2001 revealed that, by contrast, 68 per cent of the people lived on less than $17 a month.22 A subsistence annual salary was calculated at $295, but the average Kyrgyz salary per annum was $165. GDP fell between 1990 and 1996 by 47 per cent. Industrial output fell by 61 per cent and agricultural production by 35 per cent. On the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, one saw truckloads of scrap metal, stripped from disused factories, being shipped to China's smelting works, something Lutze Klevemann eloquently described as 'one empire robbing the corpse of the 0Id'.23 The poverty of Kyrgyzstan ~ is not atypical. The Uighurs of Xinjiang, the urban poor of Uzbek cities, the kiosk-owners of Kazakhstan, the unemployed of Turkmenistan, and the refugees of Karabakh all share the same bleak future. In wartorn Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the conditions in some regions are so abysmal that some have died from hunger, cold and neglect.
Regional poverty brings with it a host of other problems, including trade in narcotics, organized crime and the trafficking of women. The International Organization for Migration (the independent transnational body supported by 120 countries worldwide) estimates that, in 1999,4,000 Kyrgyz women and children were sold abroad as prostitutes in the UAE, China, Turkey and possibly Europe. The UN believes that human trafficking may now have exceeded tourism as the second-largest income generator in the country after narcotics.24 The trafficking of women also affects other Central Asian countries, but women's rights in rural districts of Afghanistan are still a cause for concern. Many are treated like property; there are reports of beatings, rape and honor killings. The smuggling of heroin from Afghanistan has also proved attractive to criminal elements across the region, and this activity is closely linked to human trafficking and terrorism. Gangs use their revenue to buy arms, transport and loyalty. They also use the money to bribe those in authority. The UN Drugs Control Programme estimates that thousands of kilos are transitted through the Central Asian states every year, fetching enormous street prices in Europe and Russia. Local heroin addiction has also incapacitated a large number of young people, rivalling the alcoholism epidemic of the Soviet era. In Kyrgyzstan, there are 4,500 registered addicts, butthe actual number ofregularusers may exceed 50,000. Accompanying this rise in addiction is the spread of AIDS. Hizb ut-Tahrir object to warnings from NGOS that people should use condoms: they argue that these warnings simply encourage prostitution. The drugS/AIDS problems have also now spread more widely across the region. In the 198 os, drugs tended to be transferred from Afghanistan to Pakistan, but by 2000 there were conduits through Iran, China, the Arab states and Central Asia. Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens are the most prominent in forming drugs syndicates which fund terrorism.
The world is not indifferent to the situation, particularly the storm centre of the Ferghana Valley. The UN Development Programme has a specific Ferghana Valley development project, and there are an independent Soros Foundation programme and an American Ferghana Valley Working Group. All these organizations stress the need for cooperation between the Central Asian states that control the area. The Uzbek government has, in the past, prevented joint development work, but it is now a member of the seo, which co-ordinates and encourages action. In Afghanistan, there is considerable effort being made in reconstruction. However, some NGOS have expressed frustration at the expense of the UN operations compared with the actual amount of reconstruction achieved. Among the more successful schemes, both in Afghanistan and in the Ferghana Valley, have been micro-credit programmes. Small funds, for crops, orchards, irrigation networks and animal husbandry, are used to help families achieve independence. In Afghanistan, women who were discouraged from going out to work were given chickens.25 These provided a food source and eggs for sale, but the real beauty of the idea was that it was a low cost project and the women could earn an income while remaining at home. The British army has also been successful in its Provincial Reconstruction Teams work. In contrast, vast prestige projects such as dam construction have been criticized for costing too much and producing poor-quality workmanship.
Water supplies are likely to prove a source of conflict in the future. Soviet systems once carried snow melt out to large cotton plantations or extended ancient networks. The independence of the republics, and civil wars in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, have disrupted many of the old systems, initially causing a 50 per cent drop in supply. As a result, 20 to 30 per cent of arable land was put out of use. In Tajikistan, the figure was closer to so per cent. In Xinjiang, water is already a contested resource between the Uighur farmers, old settlers, new migrants and industry. When Uzbekistan used the severing of gas supplies as a diplomatic lever against Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, these two countries responded by cutting water supplies to the Uzbeks in the Ferghana Valley. A severe drought that began in 2000, and that affected Tajikistan and Afghanistan particularly badly, caused a so-per-cent fall in cereal production and left millions without an adequate diet. A further fall of 15-20 per cent in 2001 left thousands starving. In Tajikistan, people sold the doors and windows of their houses to pay for food.26 Children could be seen dressed in rags and without shoes, a situation that made the winter of 2001 particularly hard. An ongoing energy crisis in Tajikistan has left the government with insufficient revenue to tackle the problem of poverty, especially in rural areas, and many are still dependent on foreign aid. In Afghanistan, the situation is very similar. Schoolchildren frequently drop out of their studies, even when the buildings are reconstructed, because they need to take up employment in public-works projects like road-building to pay for food.
The behavior of the Central Asian regimes towards public protest has also attracted international interest. There are accusations that the Global War on Terror is used as an excuse to crack down on political opponents and that the regimes fail to recognize that their own hard-line strategy is fostering unrest, even to the extent of pushing young men towards extremist groups. This is a compelling argument, posited by experienced observers like the journalist Ahmed Rashid. Yet the situation is complex. Extreme and otherworldly ideologies like those promoted by Hizb ut-Tahrir (see p.2)seem more attractive when the economic situation seems so dire. Equally, when governments appear to ignore genuine grievances, or act with brutality towards protestors, there does seem to be a strong motive to join a terrorist group - to strike back at the regimes that oppress.
However, the apparatus of government in several Central Asian states is not unlike that of the Soviet Union, and, in case of Xinjiang, it is almost unchanged from the early days of Chinese Communism. The Central Asian peoples were always the poor relations in the regimes under which they lived. What has changed is the political and religious landscape of Islam. Radicalized by external contact with extreme ideologies, particularly Salafest Salafi-Wahhabism and Salafi-Deobandism, and by events in the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan since the 1970S (including the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Iranian Revolution, and the Soviet-Afghan War and civil war that followed), a minority of Central Asians have drifted towards violence. In the case of Chechnya and Tajikistan, the breakdown of internal order and external intervention radicalized the conflict further. The breakdown of these states, and the collapse of Afghanistan in particular, proved a magnet for 'foreign volunteers' eager to assert their Islamist credentials in a world that seemed increasingly Westernized, globalized and irreligious. Central Asia has been seen by jihadists as a platform upon which to reconstruct a new world order, purged of infidels and apostates, where the Muslim umma could reassert its superiority over the West and China. The motives of the terrorists in Central Asia are only in part due to the heavy-handed policies of their governments, or to regional poverty. Rather, they see themselves engaged in an ideological struggle. At a personal level, the fighters are also driven by a desire to attack injustice and humiliation, and to give themselves a sense of righteous mission and life purpose. A few of the IMT are simply criminals, deeply involved in drugs, human trafficking or banditry.
The conflicts in Central Asia have often been characterized by clan warfare and ethnic violence. Even in the case of Chechnya, it was never just a war between Russians and Chechens. Political and clan factions were just as capable of fighting each other, and some Chechens chose to collaborate with the Russians to bring the conflict to a conclusion. In neighboring Dagestan, the people were equally divided. In the Soviet War in Afghanistan, Afghans fought on the Russian side, as did many Central Asians, including Namangani, the joint founder of the IMT. The fault-lines of the country were even more clearly demarcated in the civil war. In the Tajik Civil War, there were massacres and atrocities of shocking severity, with clan and ethnic divisions overlaid by ideological differences. There was a similar pattern in the Karabakh conflict.27
Terrorism has generated instability and fear in Central Asia. Hostage-taking for ransom, bomb attacks (including suicide bombings), ambushes and raids of state forces, looting and the trafficking of drugs, arms and people are the scourge of the region. External forces have fuelled these problems. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported extremist factions in the Afghan Civil War. Islamists from South-west Asia, North Africa, western China, Turkey and Pakistan have joined the ranks of the IMT and Al-Qaeda. Russia, China and the us have backed the Central Asian governments, providing them with military assistance. America wants the resources of Central Asia to be available to world markets and wants to wage war against terrorist movements, Russia wants to secure its economic future and to maintain its strategic influence in the former Soviet Union, while China wants to acquire resources for its growing economy and to crush any domestic Islamist threat.
Counter-terrorism requires sound socioeconomic conditions as much as good intelligence and effective security measures. The Central Asians need to be provided with jobs, decent housing and sufficient food so they do not become, as Mao once put it, the 'water' to insurgent 'fish'. If civil violence is to be avoided, this will require the broader dissemination of the new oil and gas wealth. The oil companies are indeed encouraging the construction of schools, hospitals, roads and ecology projects, but there needs to be better co-ordination between each of the republics and other foreign agencies. Economic development, political representation, accountable government, efficient security and policing with consent are essential. If these are achieved, then the jihadists and their extreme ideology may be isolated and contained long enough for them to wither away.
1 Olaf Caroe, Wells of Power: The Oiljields of Southwest em Asia - A Regional and Global Study (London, 1951); Peter John Brobst, The Future of the Great Game: Sir Olaf Caroe, India's Independence and the Defense of Asia (Akron, 2005).
2 Richard Sakwa, ed., Chechnya: From Past to Future (London, 2005), pp. 265-87; Gail W. Lapidus, 'Conflict Resolution in the Caucasus', in Aspen Institute, us Relations with the Former Soviet States (Washington, DC, 1998) p. 26.
3 Michael 1. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (New York, 2002), Pp.lOS-7; Lutz Klevemann, The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia (London, 2003), pp. 77-8.
4 Christian Tyler, Wild West China: The Untold Story of a Frontier Land (London, 2003); Klevemann, The New Great Game, p. 105.
5 Strobe Talbott, 'Remarks on US Foreign Policy in Central Asia at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies', us State Department, 21 July 1997.
6 Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven, 2002).
7 Roger Howard, Iran in Crisis? Nuclear Ambitions and the American Response (London and New York, 2004) p. 69.
8 Niklas Swanstrom, China and Central Asia: A new Great Game or traditional vassal relations?', Journal of Contemporary China, 1445 (2005), pp. 571-2; Dewardic 1. McNeal, 'China's Relations with Central Asian States and Problems with Terrorism', CRS Report for Congress, 17 December 2001, pp. 7-8.
9 Xinhua, 21 October 2006, http://news3.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-10/21/ content _5232492.htrn
10 People's Daily, 15 June 2006, cited in 'China and Shanghai Cooperation at Five', China brief, The Jamestown Foundation, 13, voL VI, 21 June 2006.
11 Michael Pillsbury, 'China's Military Strategy Towards the us: A View from Open Sources', 2 November 2001, p. 2, at http://www.uScc.gov/researchpapers/ 2000-2003/pdfs/strat.pdf. Accessed 12 March 2007
12 See the collection of papers at 'Chinese Military Power', the Commonwealth Institute, http://www.comw.org/cmp.Accessed 12 March 2007.
13 'The War on Terrorism: Afghanistan and Terrorism', East Carolina University, Joyner Library, http://www.ecu.edujIib/govdoc/afghanistan.cfrn. See also Einnews.com updates, http://www.einnews.com/afghanistan/newsfeedafghanistan-terrorism. Accessed January 2007.
14 Pamela Constable, 'Pakistan Reaches Peace Accord With Pro-Taliban Militias', Washin9ton Post, 6 September 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006 /09 /05/ AR2006090501249.htmL Accessed January 2007.
15 'Nawaz Blames Musharraf for Kargil', 28 May 2006, Times of India, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow /15814 ncms. Accessed June 2007.
16 Howard, Iran in Crisis?, pp. 43, 51-4, 56-63, 80. 17 Ibid., pp. 119-62.
18 Dilip Hiro, Between Marx and Muhammad: The Chan9in9 Face of Central Asia (London, 1994).
19 'Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Saudi Arabia', us Department of State, 25 February 2004, http://www.state.gov/g/drlfrlsfhrrpt/2003/ 27937.htrn. Accessed January 2007.
20 Klare, Resource Wars, p. 89.
21 Ibid., p. 88.
22 IRIN, 'Interview with UN Chief in Kyrgyzstan', Bishkek, 28 August 2001.
23 Klevemann, The New Great Game, p. 97.
24 IRIN, 'Interview'.
25 'Silence over Afghan Women's Rights', BBC, 1 June 2006.
26 ICRC, World Disaster Repon, 2001 (Geneva, 2001); lRIN, 'One Million People Face Starvation in Tajikistan' Dushanbe, 29 August 2001.
27 Richard Sakwa, ed., Chechnya:from Past to Future (London, 2005); C. W. Blandy, Dagestan: Binh of a Presidential Republic (Conflict Studies Research Centre, Caucasus Series, 6/25, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, briefing paper, June 2006).