Central Asia: November 2, 2001


The Central Asian nations that used to belong to the Soviet Union have always had a lot in common with Afghanistan. Mainly, all these nations are split by clan, ethnic and tribal rivalries. When the Soviets were in charge, the police state approach of the communists kept these rivalries at bay. Moreover, the Soviets poured in economic aid to keep the peace. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the economic aid evaporated, as did the police state. In some of the Central Asian states, like Uzbekistan, local communist officials used their political skills to get themselves elected, and then rebuilt the police state. Well, at least there wasn't constant clan warfare. For that's what Tajikistan got. Local communists were not as successful at keeping the peace, and had to make a deal for Russian troops to guard the border with Afghanistan, and provide the government with some extra muscle against diehard clans. The basic problem is that the industrial age has left Central Asia poverty stricken. Some nations have oil, but what they need is honest government and investment in infrastructure. The American War on Terrorism will bring to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But honest government has to come from within. While none of the former Soviet republics are as bad off as Afghanistan, they aren't an awful lot better either. And the growing poverty in these nations provides fertile recruiting ground for Islamic radicals. 


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