July 13, 2011:
In the last two years, the U.S. and NATO have increased (from ten to 40 percent) the portion of military supplies moved to Afghanistan via Central Asian and Russian railroads. This has been an economic boost for Afghanistan's northern neighbors, and a loss to Pakistani trucking and port firms.
Kazakhstan dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev is facing his most formidable opposition from thousands of oil workers. Oil is a major source of foreign currency, and the oil workers want their share. Nazarbayev disagrees. The oil workers are fighting with strikes and demonstration, while Nazarbayev counters with violence and threats. So far, it's a stand-off. The one thing Nazarbayev and the United States have in common is opposition to Islamic terrorists. Thus, two months ago, Kazakhstan sent some counter-terrorism troops to Afghanistan. So far, Kazakhstan has kept Islamic radical groups under control (as in chased them out of Kazakhstan), and wants to keep it that way. Nazarbayev, like the other Central Asian dictators, will eventually face rebellion fueled, not by Islamic conservatism, but anger at corruption and a lack of jobs.
Tajikistan has shut down 37 Islamic schools in the southern part of the country. Such schools cannot open without government permission and supervision. Most Central Asian nations are exercising more control over mosques and religious schools. This is not as volatile a subject as it would be in Afghanistan or Pakistan, because the Russians did this for over a century in Central Asia, until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
July 11, 2011: About 20 kilometers outside of the capital of Turkmenistan, there was a huge explosion. At least 15 people died, and the government said it was a mishap at a fireworks storage site. The government denied that a munitions dump was involved, and disputes claims that over 200 died. But cell phone videos of the explosions showed up on the Internet, and it's munitions going off, not fireworks. Such catastrophic explosions in the many old Soviet era munitions storage dumps are common, as the ammo gets older and is not safely disposed of (which is expensive, and dangerous.) The government ordered police to seize all pictures and videos of the incident.
In Kazakhstan, a large group of prisoners tried to break out of a penitentiary, but failed. After more than 24 hours of violence, 16 prisoners and one guard were killed. Criminal gangs are a much larger problem in Kazakhstan than Islamic radical groups.
June 30, 2011: The children of Central Asian dictators often flee to the West to live it up with daddy's money. Lola, the youngest daughter of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, sued a website for describing her as the daughter of a dictator. A French court found against her, citing the fact that she was indeed the daughter of a dictator. The trial brought forth many Uzbek exiles who testified how brutal and corrupt Lola's father was. It also put the spotlight on the large number of children and kin of corrupt dictator and other government officials living in the West, and trying to buy themselves out of their family's unsavory past, and present. Meanhile, China, unlike Europe, provides support for the government and dictator of Uzbekistan. This is in contrast to the constant criticism, and cutbacks in aid, from the United States and West Europe. China is a communist dictatorship, so their support of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov makes sense. The Chinese have advised Karimov to do something about the Uzbek economy. Karimov is very corrupt, and would rather screw up a large part of the economy, than pass up an opportunity to steal. Six years ago, Karimov stopped new private development projects (because his cut was not large enough), and shut the borders to needed trade with his neighbors. China helped to change this. Karimov is smart, well organized, corrupt and ruthless, but not stupid. The only group willing to oppose Karimov with armed force are the Islamic radicals, who don't have a lot of religious support in Uzbekistan. But a lot more people would support the Islamic radicals if it meant a less corrupt, and more effective, government. The unrest in Uzbekistan is more about economics than ideology. Meanwhile, Karimov has managed to chase Islamic radicals out of Uzbekistan.
June 26, 2011: In northern Afghanistan, U.S. troops captured Shamsuddin Abu Bakr, a senior leader of the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan). Bakr led dozens of armed Uzbek Islamic radicals, who have been living off banditry in northern Afghanistan. Many (most, actually) Central Asian Islamic radical groups have been driven out of their homelands. Most of these have ended up in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the two least hostile places for Islamic radicals in Central Asia (where over a century Russian rule has taken the edge off Islamic attitudes in the area). Afghanistan is increasingly hostile to Islamic radicals, leaving Pakistan as the least unpopular alternative.
June 16, 2011: The Kyrgyzstan parliament passed a resolution blaming leaders of the Uzbek minority for ethnic violence in the south over the last few years. This is the opposite of what actually happened, but it represents the will of the majority. In the last year, Kyrgyzstan has changed to a parliamentary form of government. This was intended to eliminate the threat of a "president for life" problem. Elections were held last October, with the new government formed after much bickering. The name of the country, Kyrgyzstan, means "Land of the 40 Clans." Democracy advocates, largely an urban minority, have not been able to get most people to away from a "clan first" mentality. Meanwhile, the drug gangs have reached key officials. The Drug Control Agency has been abolished, and that led to a 90 percent reduction in drug seizures. Government corruption, in general, is on the rise. Kyrgyzstan has long been considered one of the most corrupt nations on the planet.
June 15, 2011: In Khorugh (hear the Afghan border) Tajikistan, an illegal, anti-government demonstration took place. But it wasn't about overthrowing the government, but it was actually part of a clan dispute over corruption in the justice system and a quest for revenge.