Central Asia: January 27, 2002


Kyrgyzstan announced its willingness to host as many as 6,000 foreign troops and 50 aircraft. So far, eleven nations (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the United States) have asked to station troops and aircraft there. The five "stans" north of Afghanistan are all potentially unstable. The local governments are the Soviet era officials who quickly turned themselves into democrats when the Soviet Union dissolved and they found themselves unexpectedly independent. But once elected, they put together the kind of government they were most familiar with; a corrupt Soviet style police state. In typical Soviet style, the new "president's for life" tried to keep most of the people happy with a few economic perks, and terrorize the rest with secret police and soldiers. The resistance in the stans has formed around Islamic militants. These were receiving aid from the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but this support is now gone. But thousands of the militants and their supporters continue to operate. By allowing the anti-terrorist coalition troops to operate in the stans, the local governments get some money (much of which is stolen by corrupt politicians), some relief from criticism of their despotic rule and perhaps some advanced military training for their police and soldiers (to assist in the war on terrorism.) Since the opposition is dominated by religious radicals (who seek the establishment of a dictatorial Islamic Republic and support for organizations like al Qaeda), it's difficult to find any local democrats to back against the current bunch of dictators. At the moment, it appears that Afghanistan may end up with a more democratic and less corrupt government than it's five neighbors to the north. All this will cause problems in the future. 


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