ISIS expanding in Central Asia; think tank warns

Damascus, Syria: Think tank based in Canada in a research paper titled “Terrorist threat in Central Asia: One problem, different approaches”, in April 2022 by specialist writer Alessandro Lundini, the writer shared that there is a growing realization that a majority of new IS recruits hail from the countries of Central Asia, reported a Canada-based think tank, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS).

According to the author, there is a concrete possibility of the strengthening of these radical groups. “There are no certain figures, but it is estimated that from these countries (Central Asian Countries) thousands of youths joined ISIS or other Islamic radical groups in Syria and Iraq,” the author said.

The research also flagged concerns that there is “a possibility of an expansion of the Caliphate in the Eurasian region that could take place also with the adhesion of indigenous militias to ISIS, its ideology and its strategy”.

It is not without any basis as there are ample examples present to substantiate the research. Last August, the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan issued a pledge of loyalty to prospective adherents. This is considered a serious risk to the region.

Another major concern is the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan which Lundini feels “could represent a potential element of instability for bordering countries, like Turkmenistan”.

Russia which has a direct interest in limiting the expansion of Islamist groups also has become a land of recruitment for jihadist movements. The spillover can be seen in all central Asian countries like Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

In order to resolve this rising concern of terror recruits from these countries a common policy needs to be set even while there is a lack of coordination between nations in this region, reported the think tank, quoting the research.

Moreover, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) does not include two key states Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As Turkmenistan is not part of the organization, the country remains neutral in all these deliberations but after some violent incidents on its border with Afghanistan, the country “reached an agreement with Russia for security cooperation, which includes the control of Turkmen-Afghan border, in order to limit eventual border crossing by Taliban forces”.

In Tajikistan as well, there are hundreds of youth recruited in the forces of the Caliphate. Recently, “even one of the most influential military officials, Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, abandoned institutional ranks to join ISIS”.

While Uzbekistan has already implemented several anti-terrorism measures, Kazakhstan chose to take a different path. The country wants a global movement against terrorism, not merely a regional one.

The paper written by Lundini sums up the common anti-terror policy efforts and the necessity of a common answer at a time when the Central Asian states are becoming increasingly significant key regions.

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