On August 1, 2012, Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov announced that troops of the Chechen MVD and the Chechen administrative FSB had carried out a special operation in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia on July 29. Chechen troops killed two and wounded one member of the North Caucasian insurgency, suspected of conducting an attack on Tsentoroy, the center of the Kadyrov clan. Ingush president Yunus-Bek Yevkurov dismissed Kadyrov’s version and proclaimed that the casualties were caused by an accidental explosion in the village of Galashki near Chechnya’s border, in effect accusing Kadyrov of lying and exacerbating the already severe animosity between the two leaders.
The release of graphic videos of grave prisoner abuse in Georgia’s penitentiary system could not come at a worse time for the ruling party, less than two weeks before the October 1 parliamentary elections. The episode, inadvertently, is highly indicative of both the strengths and weaknesses of Georgia’s political system. On the one hand, it is aggravating that this type of abuse could go on without high-level intervention in spite of repeated criticism from domestic and foreign watchdogs alike. On the other hand, the government’s reaction is, encouragingly, that which could be expected from a democratic than an authoritarian state.
In light of the announced withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan by 2014, one expert made the adequate observation that “the Central Asian states are left confused, but not surprised.” The one issue causing the most confusion is the role of the Taliban movement in shaping the political landscape of Afghanistan after 2014. There are currently more questions than answers regarding this issue, which should be clarified to provide the Central Asian states with clues about how to deal with the movement when foreign troops leave the country.
Triggered by the murder of a senior security official, a conflict has recently erupted between government forces and former warlords in eastern Tajikistan. Although many different factors might have played into the government’s decision to order the military operation, at its core the intrusion aimed at completing the regime’s long-term agenda of eradicating former opposition commanders. By ordering the military operation in GBAO, the central government has demonstrated that it will no longer permit former opposition commanders or any other groups or individuals to rival the power of state organs in the country.
Kyrgyzstan’s new government has referred to corruption as the country’s most pressing problem, indicating the need to prioritize anti-corruption reforms. A new Anti-Corruption Agency has been established within the State Committee for National Security to lead the work. Criminal cases were recently initiated against two members of parliament as well as a minister, raising the question of whether a serious fight against corruption has finally begun in the country. Whether these moves constitute the beginning of a new era in Kyrgyzstan’s political system remains an open question given the fact that corruption is firmly entrenched in the country’s system of governance and can only be curtailed through a comprehensive overhaul of this system.
In August 2012, the Oliy Majlis (OM) – Uzbekistan’s parliament – adopted the new Concept on Foreign Policy Activity of the Republic of Uzbekistan. This document, albeit important and necessary per se, has its strengths, weaknesses and uncertainties. These are reflected in the concepts of “no base,” “no blocks,” and “national interest” respectively. The new foreign policy approach taken by Uzbekistan, which seemingly advocates a higher degree of international nonalignment, may nevertheless clash with the strategies of other Central Asian states and raises questions about future military basing and cooperation across the region.
Elections have repeatedly played an important role in the evolution of the Georgian political system, far more so than for example in neighboring Azerbaijan. Georgia's twenty-year republican experience can be analyzed through the lens of a three-phase evolution, where each phase has been characterized either by continuity or discontinuity with the Soviet period, though not representing decisive steps toward the full democratization of the country. The parliamentary elections scheduled for October 1, 2012, can potentially become a new “critical juncture” toward a fourth phase, a democratic one, thanks to particular new elements that distinguishes it from previous phases.
Conversion to Islam and the related spread of Islamism has a long history in Russia; however the North Caucasus and jihadists from this region are playing an increasingly important role in this process. While small in number, converts are important assets for jihadists as they provide a cadre of dedicated terrorists who are difficult to detect. Converts hence increasingly provide a pool of recruitment for North Caucasian jihadists. In late July 2012, several women engaging in terrorist activities in the North Caucasus were killed by law enforcement, one of whom was ethnic Russian. The authorities believed that she and the other women were preparing for a suicidal terrorist attack.
Since China imposed export restrictions on Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in 2010, investors have flooded the sector in search of an alternative supplier of these elements, which are critical in high-tech manufacturing. Kyrgyzstan, home of the Soviet Union’s primary REEs industrial complex and one of the world’s few previously-proven asset sets outside China, appeared set to capitalize. Kazakhstan, already a global mining hub, signed investment deals with German and Japanese interests early in 2012. Whether either country will gain from the boom will depend on their ability to attract and maintain investments sufficient to build alternatives to China, a country with entrenched interests in the industry which may prefer to see its neighbors fail.
Jund al-Khilafah (JaK) claimed responsibility for three terrorist attacks carried out by separate cells in Atyrau, Taraz and Almaty between October and December 2011. JaK caught Kazakhstani and foreign governments by surprise since the attacks, which targeted and killed state officials, were unprecedented in the country. However, a review of Kazakh jihadist activity since 2010 challenges the notion of JaK’s sudden emergence. Similar groups, which may even have included JaK members operating under a different name, released propaganda nearly identical to JaK before the fall of 2011.