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  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kyrgyzstan models itself as Central Asia’s only parliamentary democracy, but multiple challenges threaten its stability. Divided ethnically between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks and geographically north and south, the state is deeply corrupt and fails to deliver basic services, in particular justice and law enforcement. Its political institutions are under stress: the October 2015 parliamentary elections had a veneer of respectability but were undermined by systematic graft at the party and administrative level, and presidential elections will test state cohesion in 2017. The 30 August suicide car bomb attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek underscored Kyrgyzstan’s security vulnerabilities. There is need to prevent and counter the threat of growing radicalisation by bolstering the credibility of its institutions and adopting a more tolerant attitude toward non-violent Islamists.
  • Topic: Corruption, Radicalization, Democracy, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS). Prompted in part by political marginalisation and bleak economic prospects that characterise their post-Soviet region, 2,000-4,000 have in the past three years turned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative. IS beckons not only to those who seek combat experience, but also to those who envision a more devout, purposeful, fundamentalist religious life. This presents a complex problem to the governments of Central Asia. They are tempted to exploit the phenomenon to crack down on dissent. The more promising solution, however, requires addressing multiple political and administrative failures, revising discriminatory laws and policies, implementing outreach programs for both men and women and creating jobs at home for disadvantaged youths, as well as ensuring better coordination between security services.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Water has long been a major cause of conflict in Central Asia. Two states – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – have a surplus; the other three say they do not get their share from the region's great rivers, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya, which slice across it from the Tien Shan, Pamir Mountains, and the Hindu Kush to the Aral Sea's remains. Pressures are mounting, especially in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The population in Central Asia has increased by almost ten million since 2000, and limited arable land is being depleted by over-use and outdated farming methods. Extensive corruption and failing infrastructure take further toll, while climate change is likely to have long-term negative consequences. As economies become weaker and states more fragile, heightened nationalism, border disputes, and regional tensions complicate the search for a mutually acceptable solution to the region's water needs. A new approach that addresses water and related issues through an interlocking set of individually more modest bilateral agreements instead of the chimera of a single comprehensive one is urgently needed.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Natural Resources, Water
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated as president of Afghanistan on 29 September, under difficult circumstances. He inherited a government that is running out of money and losing ground to a rising insurgency. His ability to confront those problems and other challenges as foreign troops withdraw will be shaped by the aftermath of the political contest that brought him to power. Forming a national unity government with his election rival Abdullah Abdullah presents opportunities to stabilise the transition, preventing further erosion of state cohesiveness. Yet, it also poses risks, particularly of factionalism within Kabul, which could undermine urgently needed reforms. Given the international role in developing the agreements that have created this new partnership, and the absence of mechanisms to resolve internal differences, the international community should serve as a guarantor of Kabul's new political order and, if necessary, mediate any serious disputes that arise.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Islam, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan have been largely characterised by mutual mistrust and devised through a narrow security prism. While it will require considerable effort to end deep-seated animosity, both countries share close ethnic, linguistic, religious and economic ties. Longstanding Afghan migration to the territories that now compose Pakistan makes them an integral part of Pakistani society. Yet, military-devised interventionist policies, based on perceived national security interests, including support for Afghan, mainly Pashtun, proxies, have marred the relationship. The incoming Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has offered to expand bilateral ties, providing Islamabad fresh opportunities to improve the relationship. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has responded positively, but the Pakistani military and civilian leadership's preferences toward Kabul are diverging further as Afghanistan's transition draws closer. By recalibrating relations toward economic ties and seeking solutions to the presence of millions of Afghan refugees on its soil, Pakistan could engage more constructively with its neighbour.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Economics, Islam, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kazakhstan has long been viewed from the outside as the most prosperous and stable country in a region widely regarded as fragile and dysfunctional. The appearance of wealth, based largely on the conspicuous consumption of Almaty and Astana, its main cities, and multi-billion-dollar energy contracts – increasingly with China – hides, however, a multitude of challenges. An ageing authoritarian leader with no designated successor, labour unrest, growing Islamism, corruption, and a state apparatus that, when confronted even with limited security challenges, seems hard-pressed to respond, all indicate that the Kazakh state is not as robust as it first appears. Without a significant effort to push forward with repeatedly promised political, social and economic reforms, Kazakhstan risks becoming just another Central Asian authoritarian regime that squandered the advantages bestowed on it by abundant natural resources.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: China, Central Asia, Kazakhstan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Negotiations underway since late 2012 between Turkey's government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are stalling. A ceasefire announced on 23 March 2013 remains precarious, as maximalist rhetoric gains renewed traction on both sides. While the PKK should be doing more to persuade Ankara that it wants a compromise peace, the government has a critical responsibility to fully address the longstanding democratic grievances of Turkey's Kurds. One reason it frequently gives for its hesitation is fear of a nationalist backlash. In fact, the peace process has already demonstrated how willing mainstream Turks would be to accept steps towards democratisation. A much bigger risk for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as it heads into a two-year cycle of local, presidential and parliamentary elections, would be if the three-decade-old conflict plunges into a new cycle of violence.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Peace Studies, Terrorism, Treaties and Agreements, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As the presidential election approaches in 2014, with the security transition at the year's end, Afghan women, including parliamentarians and rights activists, are concerned that the hard-won political, economic and social gains achieved since the U.S.-led intervention in 2001 may be rolled back or conceded in negotiations with the insurgents. Afghanistan's stabilisation ultimately rests on the state's accountability to all its citizens, and respect for constitutional, legal and international commitments, including to human rights and gender equality. There will be no sustainable peace unless there is justice, and justice demands that the state respect and protect the rights of women, half its population.
  • Topic: NATO, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Peace Studies, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A negotiated political settlement is a desirable outcome to the conflict in Afghanistan, but current talks with the Taliban are unlikely to result in a sustainable peace. There is a risk that negotiations under present conditions could further destabilise the country and region. Debilitated by internal political divisions and external pressures, the Karzai government is poorly positioned to cut a deal with leaders of the insurgency. Afghanistan's security forces are ill-prepared to handle the power vacuum that will occur following the exit of international troops. As political competition heats up within the country in the run-up to NATO's withdrawal of combat forces at the end of 2014, the differing priorities and preferences of the parties to the conflict – from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership to key regional and wider international actors – will further undermine the prospects of peace. To avoid another civil war, a major course correction is needed that results in the appointment of a UN-mandated mediation team and the adoption of a more realistic approach to resolution of the conflict.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Treaties and Agreements, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kyrgyzstan's government has failed to calm ethnic tensions in the south, which continue to grow since the 2010 violence, largely because of the state's neglect and southern leaders' anti-Uzbek policies. Osh, the country's second city, where more than 420 people died in ethnic clashes in June of that year, remains dominated by its powerful mayor, an ardent Kyrgyz nationalist who has made it clear that he pays little attention to leaders in the capital. While a superficial quiet has settled on the city, neither the Kyrgyz nor Uzbek community feels it can hold. Uzbeks are subject to illegal detentions and abuse by security forces and have been forced out of public life. The government needs to act to reverse these worsening trends, while donors should insist on improvements in the treatment of the Uzbek minority.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Government, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkey's Kurdish conflict is becoming more violent, with more than 700 dead in fourteen months, the highest casualties in thirteen years. Prolonged clashes with militants in the south east, kidnappings and attacks on civilians suggest hardliners are gaining the upper hand in the insurgent PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). The government and mainstream media should resist the impulse to call for all out anti-terrorist war and focus instead, together with Kurds, on long-term conflict resolution. There is need to reform oppressive laws that jail legitimate Kurdish politicians and make amends for security forces' excess. The Kurdish movement, including PKK leaders, must abjure terrorist attacks and publicly commit to realistic political goals. Above all, politicians on all sides must legalise the rights most of Turkey's Kurds seek, including mother-language education; an end to discriminatory laws; fair political representation; and more decentralisation. Turkey's Kurds would then have full equality and rights, support for PKK violence would drop, and the government would be better placed to negotiate insurgent disarmament and demobilisation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Communism, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkey is the newest country to intervene in Somalia and its involvement has produced some positive results. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's courageous visit to Mogadishu in August 2011 at the height of the famine and his decision to open an embassy gave fresh impetus to efforts to establish lasting peace. Widespread Somali gratitude for Turkish humanitarian endeavours and the country's status as a Muslim and democratic state established Turkey as a welcome partner. Ankara has signalled it is in for the long haul. However, it must tread prudently, eschew unilateralism and learn lessons to avoid another failed international intervention. Over twenty years, many states and entities have tried to bring relief and secure peace in Somalia, often leaving behind a situation messier than that which they found. Ankara must appreciate it alone cannot solve the country's many challenges, but must secure the support and cooperation of both the Somali people and international community. Trying to go solo could backfire, hamper ongoing efforts and lose the immense good-will it has accumulated.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Foreign Policy, Islam, Peace Studies, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Africa, Central Asia, Turkey, Somalia
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014. That makes the political challenge of organising a credible presidential election and transfer of power from President Karzai to a successor that year all the more daunting. A repeat of previous elections' chaos and chicanery would trigger a constitutional crisis, lessening chances the present political dispensation can survive the transition. In the current environment, prospects for clean elections and a smooth transition are slim. The electoral process is mired in bureaucratic confusion, institutional duplication and political machinations. Electoral officials indicate that security and financial concerns will force the 2013 provincial council polls to 2014. There are alarming signs Karzai hopes to stack the deck for a favoured proxy. Demonstrating at least will to ensure clean elections could forge a degree of national consensus and boost popular confidence, but steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse. Time is running out.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Corruption, Ethnic Conflict, War, Insurgency, Fragile/Failed State, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Quietly but steadily Central Asia's basic human and physical infrastructure – the roads, power plants, hospitals and schools and the last generation of Soviet-trained specialists who have kept this all running – is disappearing. The equipment is wearing out, the personnel retiring or dying. Post-independence regimes made little effort to maintain or replace either, and funds allocated for this purpose have largely been eaten up by corruption. This collapse has already sparked protests and contributed to the overthrow of a government.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Government, Fragile/Failed State, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A surge in violence has dashed plans for a negotiated end to the 27-year-old Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) insurgency. Since Turkey's elections in mid-June, clashes have killed more than 110 people, country-wide ethnic friction has hardened opinion, and the government has started bombing PKK bases and talking about an imminent ground offensive in northern Iraq. The PKK must immediately end its new wave of terrorist and insurgent attacks, and the Turkish authorities must control the escalation with the aim to halt all violence. A hot war and militaristic tactics did not solve the Kurdish problem in the 1990s and will not now. A solution can only lie in advancing the constitutional, language and legal reforms of the past decade that have gone part way to giving Turkish Kurds equal rights. Given the recent violence, returning to a positive dynamic requires a substantial strategic leap of imagination from both sides. Neither should allow itself to be swept away by armed conflict that has already killed more than 30,000 since 1984.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Central Asia, Turkey, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan. Remittances that kept their relatives afloat have plummeted and many migrants have returned home to certain destitution, putting weak Central Asian governments under severe strain. In Tajikistan half the labour force is without work, while Kyrgyzstan suffers from massive rural unemployment. Before the crisis hit, up to five million people from these countries left home for Russia and Kazakhstan to take on poorly paid and unskilled jobs, often the unpleasant tasks that local people no longer wished to do. Yet at home they were viewed with respect: the most daring members of their society, who were willing to take a jump into the unknown to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Remittances also boosted their home countries' economic data, allowing governments with little ability or interest in creating jobs to claim a modest degree of success. By 2008 remittances were providing the equivalent of half Tajikistan's gross domestic product (GDP), a quarter of Kyrgyzstan's GDP, and an eighth of Uzbekistan's.
  • Topic: Economics, Migration, Labor Issues, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Russia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A swift, violent rebellion swept into the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in early April 2010, sparked by anger at painful utility price increases and the corruption that was the defining characteristic of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's rule. In less than two days the president had fled. Some 85 people were killed and the centre of the capital was looted. The thirteen-member provisional government now faces a daunting series of challenges. Bakiyev leaves be- hind a bankrupt state hollowed out by corruption and crime. Economic failure and collapsing infrastructure have generated deep public resentment. If the provisional government moves fast to assert its power, the risks of major long-term violence are containable: there are no signs of extensive support for Bakiyev or of a North-South split. The speed with which the Bakiyev administration collapsed is a salutary reminder of the risks of over emphasising Western security concerns in framing policy towards the region.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Fragile/Failed State, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: For nearly a decade, the Afghan military has been promoted as the cornerstone of counterinsurgency in the country. Billed as a rare success story in a conflict with few bright spots, the Afghan armed forces will undoubtedly prove pivotal to stabilising Afghanistan. Yet nine years after the fall of the Taliban, there appears to be little agreement between the government of President Hamid Karzai and its international backers on what kind of army the country needs, how to build it or which elements of the insurgency the Afghan army should be fighting. Persistent structural flaws meanwhile have undermined the military's ability to operate independently. Ethnic frictions and political factionalism among high-level players in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the general staff have also stunted the army's growth. As a result, the army is a fragmented force, serving disparate interests, and far from attaining the unified national character needed to confront numerous security threats. There is a strong need to strengthen civilian input into military development, confront corruption and factionalism within the MOD and general staff and to place sustainability of the armed forces at the forefront of Afghanistan's national security strategy.
  • Topic: Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: An explosion of violence, destruction and looting in southern Kyrgyzstan on 11-14 June 2010 killed many hundreds of people, mostly Uzbeks, destroyed over 2000 buildings, mostly homes, and deepened the gulf between the country\'s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. It was further proof of the near total ineffectiveness of the provisional government that overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010, and is now trying to guide the country to general elections in October. Given the government\'s slowness to address the causes and consequences of the violence, the danger of another explosion is high. Even without one, the aftershocks of the looting, murder and arson could seriously damage Kyrgyzstan\'s ailing economy, cause a significant outflow of ethnic Uzbeks and other minorities, and further destabilise the already fragile situation in Central Asia in general. The route back to stability will be long and difficult, not least because no reliable security or even monitoring force has been deployed in the affected area. It should start with an internationally supported investigation into the pogroms, as visible an international police and diplomatic presence as possible to discourage their recurrence, and close coordination on effective rebuilding of towns and communities.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Genocide, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Seven years after the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan the country is still at war against extremists and has developed few resilient institutions. A policy review by the Obama administration has reopened debate about how to defeat the forces of violent global jihadism – al-Qaeda and its Taliban protectors – in Afghanistan and in neighbouring Pakistan. In most cases, the ideas on offer – from declaring victory and pulling out, to negotiating with the insurgents, to organising regional conferences, to prioritising relationships with favoured individuals and allies over the development of strong democratic institutions – have been tried at least once in the past two decades, with no success: we know now what not to do.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In the wake of a conceptually flawed peace agreement, the Taliban takeover of large parts of Malakand division, subsequent military action in the area, almost three million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled to camps, homes, schools and other places of shelter across Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). The challenge for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government and international actors is to make relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts responsive to needs and empower local communities in Malakand Division. Failure to do so will reverse any gains on the battlefield and boost radical Islamist groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Central Asia, Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kyrgyzstan's in­creasingly authoritarian government is adopting a counter-productive approach to the country's growing radicalisation. Instead of tackling the root causes of a phenomenon that has seen increasing numbers, including many women, joining groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), it is resorting to heavy-handed police methods that risk pushing yet more Kyrgyz towards radicalism. The authorities view HT, which describes itself as a revolutionary party that aims to restore by peace­ful means the caliphate that once ruled the Mus­lim world, as a major security threat. But for some men and ever more women, it offers a sense of identity and belonging, solutions to the day-to-day failings of the society they live in, and an alternative to what they widely view as the Western-style social model that prevails in Kyrgyzstan. Without a major effort to tackle endemic corruption and economic failure, radical ranks are likely to swell, while repression may push at least some HT members into violence. This report focuses pri­marily on the increasingly important role that women are playing in the movement.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Islam
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 12-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The number of Islamists in Kyrgyz and Kazakh prisons is small but growing, in both size and political significance. Well-organised Islamist proselytisers, mostly imprisoned on charges of religious extremism, are consolidating their position within the informal structures of power behind prison walls. Incarcerating determined activists is providing them with the opportunity to extend their influence among convicts, at first inside prison and then on their release. Problems within jails in Central Asia have been known to seep outside the prison walls; the expansion of radical Islamist thought within prisons is likely to have serious consequences. The paradox of the situation is that, in private at least, political leaders in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are intensely aware that the best way to defeat extremism is to address woeful social and economic conditions, fight the systemic top-to-bottom corruption that besets all the region's regimes, and in the words of one regional leader, “give people a future”.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Uzbekistan remains a serious risk to itself and its region. While 69-year-old President Islom Karimov shows no signs of relinquishing power, despite the end of his legal term of office more than half a year ago, his eventual departure may lead to a violent power struggle. The economy remains tightly controlled, with regime stalwarts, including the security services and Karimov's daughter Gulnora, exerting excessive influence, which drives away investors and exacerbates poverty. The human rights situation is grave, and those who seek to flee abroad live in constant danger of attempts to return them forcibly. While the government cites the "war on terror" to justify many policies, its repression may in fact be creating greater future danger. Efforts at international engagement have been stymied by its refusal to reform and to allow an independent investigation of the May 2005 Andijon uprising. Little can be done presently to influence Tashkent but it is important to help ordinary Uzbeks as much as possible and to assist the country's neighbours build their capacity to cope with the instability that is likely to develop when Karimov goes.
  • Topic: Corruption, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Central Asia, Asia, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Oil and gas are proving as much a burden as a benefit to Central Asia. The three oil and gas producers in the region – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – are showing signs of the “resource curse” under which energy rich nations fail to thrive or develop distorted, unstable economies. Geography and their history in the Soviet Union have bound them to Russia, through which most of their energy exports must be transported. Moscow is proving to be an unreliable partner for foreign consumers as it has been willing to cut off pipelines to apply commercial or political pressure. Low investment, corruption and gross mismanagement in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan may mean that their supplies run low before they can diversify their links to markets or their economies. Central Asia is likely to see energy create instability within the region; the chances are low that it will be a factor in improving European energy security any time soon.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Soviet Union, Moscow, Turkmenistan
  • Publication Date: 04-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The European Union is not living up to its potential as a geopolitical actor in Central Asia. The level of EU interest has been low, and Brussels is doing little to shape developments in a region that has mostly seen marked declines in its economic fortunes, political freedoms and social development in recent years but remains of considerable strategic significance. If this is to change, Europe must move away from largely unsuccessful policies, particularly the promotion of region-wide projects, and take on a more focused and active role geared to the distinct characteristics of each of the region's five states. It needs also to raise the level of its representation, spend more money and stick to its political ideals if it is to have a positive impact.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Central Asia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Street battles between thousands of pro and antigovernment protestors broken up by police billy clubs and tear gas in the central square of the capital this week illustrate dramatically that Kyrgyzstan is on the verge of political breakdown and possible civil war. The government and opposition have begun talks to pull the country back from the brink, and the president signed a new constitution on 9 November that the parliament had passed the previous day. But tensions are still high. The talks will need to be widened if they are to resolve the underlying dispute, which is centred on the division of power between the president and the parliament, and related issues. The international community should become much more active in preventive diplomacy because if a solution is not found quickly, Kyrgyzstan's instability could easily affect other states in the fragile Central Asian region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Government
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: While Kyrgyzstan still struggles to find political stability in the wake of its 2005 revolution, deteriorating conditions in its prison system, known by its Russian acronym GUIN, pose a threat to the fragile state's security and public health. Badly underfunded and forgotten, GUIN has all but lost control over the nearly 16,000 inmates for which it is responsible. Power has passed into the hands of criminal leaders for whom prison populations are armies in reserve. A lack of buffers between prisons and the government has meant that trouble in jails has already led to serious conflicts outside their crumbling walls. The risks of strife in prisons leading to wider political instability is likely to worsen unless the government and donors launch an urgent process of penal reform.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Civil Society, Government
  • Political Geography: Russia, Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In politics and policies, Serbia increasingly resembles the Milosevic-era without Milosevic. Its reaction to the catastrophic mid-March 2004 near collapse of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the strong showing by ultra-nationalists in the 28 December 2003 parliamentary elections and the subsequent two-months of squabbling before democratic parties could form a minority government that depends for survival on the support of Milosevic's old party all are signs that more trouble lies ahead. In 2004 Serbia can anticipate continued political instability, increasingly strained relations with the West and further economic decline. The spasm of ethnic cleansing of Serbs by Albanians in Kosovo has raised the prospect of Kosovo partition, strengthened the nationalist right wing and increased anti-Western sentiment. Instability and economic weakness could hasten moves by Montenegro towards independence, while Kosovo tensions could spill over into the Presevo valley, Sandzak and even Vojvodina.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 17 March 2004, the unstable foundations of four and a half years of gradual progress in Kosovo buckled and gave way. Within hours the province was immersed in anti-Serb and anti-UN rioting and had regressed to levels of violence not seen since 1999. By 18 March the violence mutated into the ethnic cleansing of entire minority villages and neighbourhoods. The mobs of Albanian youths, extremists and criminals exposed the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led peacekeeping force (KFOR) as very weak. Kosovo's provisional institutions of self-government (PISG), media and civil society afforded the rioters licence for mayhem. The international community urgently needs new policies -- on final status and socio-economic development alike -- or Kosovo instability may infect the entire region.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Kosovo, United Nations, Albania
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Representatives of the Afghan government, the UN and the major donor countries and institutions will assemble in Berlin on 31 March and 1 April for the first high-level diplomatic meeting on Afghanistan in more than two years. The principal objective is to secure substantial long-term aid commitments -- the Afghan government seeks U.S.$27.6 billion over seven years. In addition to meeting this global figure, it will be important for donors to make multi-year pledges that provide a basis for predictability and to increase cash on hand for immediate projects over the coming year. All this is needed if Afghanistan's governance and security institutions are to be reconstructed, development goals met, and poverty alleviated.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Uzbekistan occupies a key strategic position in Central Asia and has a strong security relationship with the U.S. but its political system is highly repressive and its economy is barely reformed since Soviet times. Economic decline and political sclerosis threaten internal stability and undermine regional security. The international community has long urged political and economic reform, but with little success. With no significant progress on either front in 2003, it is time for the U.S., the EU and international financial institutions to begin to shift policies: reducing lending and assistance to the central government, while increasing engagement with society and the private sector.
  • Topic: Government, Human Rights, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, Central Asia, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Pan-Albanianism is seen by many observers as a serious threat to Balkan stability. A century of shifting borders has left ethnic Albanians scattered across Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the National Liberation Army (NLA) in Macedonia, and other groups have all waged campaigns of violence in support of enhanced rights for ethnic Albanians. Where is the ceiling to their ambitions?
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Greece, Kosovo, Serbia, Balkans, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The terrorist acts in the United States on 11 September 2001 have prompted an ongoing discussion of how international engagement, in all its aspects, can undermine Islamist radicalism and promote religious tolerance. New attention to Central Asia after 9/11, including a Western military presence, has also focused minds on whether the region is at serious threat from Islamist radicalism and what can be done about it. This report examines the attitudes of Central Asian Muslims to the West, based on public opinion surveys and interviews in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and offers a range of policy options for closer engagement with Islam and approaches that might reduce support for radical alternatives to present regimes.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: United States, Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: When delegates to Afghanistan's Constitutional Loya Jirga assemble in Kabul on 13 December 2003, they will begin debating and ultimately deciding upon a draft document that is intended to establish a strong presidency while accommodating the other dominant figures at the country's centre. It is a constitution, however, that for the most part would fail to provide meaningful democratic governance, including power-sharing, a system of checks and balances, or mechanisms for increasing the representation of ethnic, regional and other minority groups. The manner in which the draft has been prepared and publicised, as well as its content, raise serious questions about whether it can become the first constitution in Afghanistan's history to command genuinely deep popular support and, therefore, contribute to national stability.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Kabul
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Albanian-majority Presevo Valley in southern Serbia is one of the few conflict resolution success stories in the former Yugoslavia. Yet tensions linger, and a series of violent incidents in August and September 2003 demonstrated that the peace can still unravel. Serbia's stalled reform process is preventing the political and economic changes that are needed to move forward on many critical issues in the area, and there is a general sense among local Albanians that peace has not delivered what it promised: an end to tensions with Serb security forces and prosperity.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Development, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Yugoslavia, Serbia
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More international involvement is needed in all spheres of youth activity in Central Asia, where around half the population is under 30. In a world where many people expect progress with each generation, most of the young in this region are worse off than their parents. They have higher rates of illiteracy, unemployment, poor health, and drug use and are more likely to be victims or perpetrators of violence. Few regions have seen such sharp declines in the welfare of their youth, and the combination of declining living standards with a demographic bulge brings increased risks of political instability and conflict. Current trends must be reversed if the region is to avoid more serious economic and political problems.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Demographics, Economics, Education, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The domination of Afghanistan's political landscape by armed parties and individual commanders is still the principal obstacle to implementation of the political process that was agreed at the Bonn conference in late 2001. Without a credible process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former commanders and fighters into society (DR), it is inconceivable that any of the key elements of that political process - including the adoption of a new constitution, judicial reform, and elections - can be meaningfully implemented. More international engagement across the country - in the form of both security contributions and economic assistance - remains the essential ingredient.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Development, Economics, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tackling conflict and providing security in Afghanistan requires a greater effort to deal with local disputes that frequently flare into violence and lead to wider problems. Although these attract less attention than the threat from the resurgent Taliban, they are important as they produce an environment of insecurity which destroys all quality of life for ordinary civilians and undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan Transitional Administration in Kabul. Local commanders often exploit these disputes to consolidate their positions, further weakening the authority of the central government.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Development, Government, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Kabul
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the South East Asian terrorist organisation based in Indonesia, remains active and dangerous, despite the mid-August 2003 arrest of Hambali, one of its top operatives.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Prospects for an enduring peace in Afghanistan are still fragile despite progress since the ouster of the Taliban in December 2001. A key obstacle is the perception of many ethnic Pashtuns that they lack meaningful representation in the central government, particularly in its security institutions. Other factors contributing to growing alienation from the Bonn political process include continued violence against Pashtuns in parts of the north and west, heavy-handed search operations and collaboration with abusive commanders by the U.S.-led Coalition, and impediments to trade in the southern and eastern provinces. Unless measures are taken to address these grievances and ensure that a more representative government emerges from the forthcoming election, there will be a greater likelihood of the political process ending in failure.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What has been the impact of Indonesia's radical decentralisation program, launched on 1 January 2001, on conflict prevention and management? This case study of the district of Luwu in South Sulawesi finds results that have thus far been positive. But it remains an open question whether these results are sustainable – and whether Luwu's success is transferable to other parts of the country.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Indonesia
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: To avoid future instability, Central Asian states need to re-examine their policies towards Islam and step back from reliance on repression. Seventy years of Soviet rule in Central Asia did not crush Islam but it had a profound effect in secularising society and political elites. Nevertheless, after independence there was a surge of interest in Islam, including the emergence of political Islamist groups seeking to challenge the secular nature of these new states. The heavy-handed repression of early manifestations of political Islam led to confrontation, violence, and the appearance of extremist and terrorist groups.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Hizbut-Tahrir al-Islami (The Party of Islamic Liberation) stands apart from better known radical Islamist movements by its apparent opposition to the use of violence. But its views are highly radical, advocating the overthrow of governments throughout the Muslim world and their replacement by an Islamic state in the form of a recreated Caliphate. It has grown quickly in Central Asia and been met with a heavy-handed repression that threatens to radicalise members still further and sow the seeds of greater Islamist extremism in the region.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Despite King Gyanendra's appointment of a new prime minister in June 2003, Nepal remains in a deepening political crisis. By turns conciliatory and confrontational, its royalist government, the Maoist insurgents and the recently ousted political parties have all proven capable of derailing the peace process if their concerns are not addressed. With political parties shut out of peace talks and the palace continuing efforts to keep them off balance and marginalised, party activists have increasingly taken to the streets. This has left the king in an awkward position: wishing to retain control of the government without appearing to be doing so. Such an approach is ultimately untenable, as the controversial appointment of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa makes clear.
  • Topic: Peace Studies, Politics, War
  • Political Geography: Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Afghanistan is stumbling on its way to a new constitution. The document that must express the values and aspirations of a people may lack widespread legitimacy because it has been drafted in a secretive and unaccountable manner. International efforts to promote public education and consultation have been inadequate. The Transitional Administration (TA) and the UN are now heading down a well-trodden path in Afghan history whereby a constitution is proclaimed but no one, let alone those in control of state power, has any incentive to respect it.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Myanmar is one of the ethnically most diverse countries in the world and throughout its existence as an independent state has experienced a complex set of conflicts between the central government and ethnic minority groups seeking autonomy. While the world's attention for the past decade has focused on the struggle between the military government and the political opposition over national power, these underlying conflicts perhaps represent a more fundamental and intractable obstacle to peace, development and democracy.
  • Topic: Development, Ethnic Conflict, Government
  • Political Geography: Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 04-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Annual Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) commencing on 3 May 2003 is an opportunity to assess frankly and honestly the records of the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. If the chance is grasped to push for reform in a more coordinated and concerted way, the controversial decision to hold this meeting in Tashkent will prove well justified. If it is not, and any impression is left that the location of the meeting is a mark of approval for Uzbekistan's current policies, there is a major risk of further deterioration in both the economic and security climate in Central Asia.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan
  • Publication Date: 04-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tajikistan's experience in ending a brutal civil war and integrating opposition factions into government has won deserved praise. Major advances have been made in security around the country, and stability has improved significantly over the past two years. Yet the economic situation remains dire; Tajikistan is one of the twenty poorest countries in the world. Widespread poverty continues to fuel a major drugtrafficking business and provides potential breeding grounds for Islamist militant or other extremist groups. There is a serious need to use development assistance to build a viable state in this geopolitically vital part of Central Asia.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Development, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Tajikistan
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The establishment of an Interim Administration for Afghanistan during the Bonn talks in December 2001 was heralded as offering Afghan women a chance to claim their place in public life and participate in the country's development after systemic exclusion under the Taliban. Creation of a Ministry of Women's Affairs, the commitment of substantial donor assistance to programs targeting women, and, most critically, the return of women to universities, schools, and government offices all portended a new day.
  • Topic: Development, Gender Issues, Government
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Taliban