The New Great Game Round-Up: July 29, 2015

Terror Spreads Across China as Uyghurs Explore New Escape Routes, Kyrgyzstan Cancels Treaty Because U.S. 'Sought Chaos' & More

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

As the situation in northern Afghanistan deteriorates further, the neighboring Central Asian states as well as Russia and China are becoming increasingly worried about a possible spillover of violence. The United States, on the other hand, has dismissed these concerns from the beginning and continues to insist that the security situation in Afghanistan poses no threat to the neighboring 'stans. This is a bold claim in light of the territorial gains by the Taliban and other militant groups in Faryab province, which borders Turkmenistan. A few days ago, insurgents blew up an electricity tower in Faryab, disrupting electricity supply to the provincial capital Maymana and four other districts. It was the second time in one week that the power supply lines have been cut due to the fighting. Since pro-government militias are retreating in most areas and Maymana is in danger of falling to militants, the Afghan government wants to launch a major military operation in the province as soon as possible:

Major operation on the way in northern Faryab province A major military operation is due to kick off in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan to clear the under the control of the Taliban militants. The operation is expected to be launched jointly by the Afghan national security forces including Afghan special forces along with the anti-Taliban public uprising forces. A lawmaker representing northern Faryab province in the Lower House of the Parliament – Wolesi Jirga, told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the operation will be conducted as per the instructions of the First Vice President. 

China, Pakistan Could Become 'Guarantors' of Afghan Peace Deal

First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and another equally powerful and controversial figure, the governor of Balkh province Atta Mohammad Noor, recently agreed to join forces in order to repel the insurgents in Faryab and other northern Afghan provinces. Noor has long criticized the government for ignoring the rising militant violence in the north. In the search for scapegoats, Dostum has lately also suggested that people inside the government "have paved the way" for the militants and he vowed to reveal the culprits very soon. Although the infamous Afghan warlord is not a friend of the Taliban, he pointed out that foreign fighters from Central Asia and China are the driving force behind the current militant offensive and not the Afghan Taliban. Moreover, Dostum asserted that he is now capable of dealing with the insurgency in northern Afghanistan thanks to the full backing of the government, which had not been the case previously. But given the alarming situation, Kabul doesn't have much choice:

Taliban Take Remote Afghan Police Base After Mass Surrender The Taliban took control of a large police base in a remote part of northeastern Afghanistan after some 100 police and border guards joined the insurgents following three days of fighting, security officials said Sunday. The loss of the Tirgaran base in Badakhshan province marked the largest mass surrender since U.S. and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year. It highlighted the challenges facing Afghan security forces, which have seen their casualties soar in the face of stepped-up insurgent attacks. The police base, in the province's Wardoj district, had been cut off as heavy rains destroyed roads into the area, said Gen. Baba Jan, Badakhshan province's police chief. It wasn't clear why reinforcements hadn't been flown into the area, though the province's steep valleys often make aircraft landings difficult. 

While Afghan officials stated that the local police commander and his men defected to the Taliban and handed over the base's weapons and ammunition, the Taliban claimed that they managed to overrun the police base and capture the security forces. They substantiated their claims shortly thereafter by releasing 107 security personnel captured at the base. Badakhshan has seen some of the heaviest fighting since the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) left the province in the hands of the Afghan security forces. The ineptitude of the Afghan army and the growing presence of Taliban and foreign fighters have not gone unnoticed by neighboring countries. Especially Tajikistan has been sounding the alarm over the developments in Badakhshan province but China is worried as well. This is one of the reasons why Beijing is taking a leading role in facilitating the Afghan peace talks:

Afghan peace deal: Islamabad, Beijing ready to become ‘guarantors’ Pakistan and China are ready to become ‘guarantors’ of a possible peace deal between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, officials familiar with the development have said. “We are ready to go the extra mile. We are even willing to become guarantors for any peace agreement,” said a senior Pakistani official, who requested not to be named because of sensitivity of the issue. During the talks, the Afghan side demanded immediate ceasefire from the Afghan Taliban. However, the Taliban reportedly agreed to cease fire if Islamabad and Beijing become ‘guarantors’ to ensure that a ‘United National Government’ will be formed in Afghanistan. Another official said China is also ready to provide guarantees if all the negotiating parties accept this arrangement. Following the Murree talks, China had hinted at playing a more proactive role in brokering a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The noteworthy statement of the unnamed senior Pakistani official immediately attracted India's attention and the Press Trust of India (PTI) asked Beijing to comment on the report. China's Foreign Ministry evaded a direct response and only said that China will maintain close cooperation will all parties to bring about peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. After the first meeting between representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban in Islamabad went better than expected, most parties have high hopes for the second round of talks this week. China was expected to host the upcoming meeting but a senior Pakistani security official just confirmed that the negotiations will continue in Pakistan. With the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor making progress, it comes as no real surprise that Islamabad and Beijing are currently doing their best to facilitate the Afghan peace talks:

China-Pakistan economic corridor under construction Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif has inspected a road network under construction in Balochistan Province, which is part of a China-Pakistan development project. The economic corridor project links Gawadar Port in southwestern Pakistan to northwestern China's Xinjiang. Sharif said the corridor will transform the lives of local people and boost the development of the region. The construction is being out by Pakistan's Frontier Works Organisation, a military administrative staff corps. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was launched as part of the "One Belt, One Road" initiatives to connect Asia and Europe proposed by China.

Terror Spreads Across China as Uyghurs Explore New Escape Routes

Given the ongoing security problems in Balochistan and Xinjiang, chaos in neighboring Afghanistan is the last thing that Pakistan and China need right now. The Pakistani military has vowed to protect Chinese workers and engineers, who will assist in the construction of the project, with a 12,000 strong special security force. In exchange for billions of dollars in investments, Islamabad has also taken some action against Uyghur jihadists and other foreign fighters seeking refuge in the Pakistani tribal areas. As usual, Beijing prefers to throw money at the problem. Lately, Chinese consulate officials have reportedly been offering money to Uyghurs in Pakistan for information about activists campaigning against Chinese rule in 'East Turkestan.' The Chinese authorities take no chances when it comes to the insurgency in Xinjiang but an incident in the capital of the northeastern Liaoning province two weeks ago served as a stark reminder that the Uyghur militancy is no longer confined to China's far west:

China says police shoot dead three Xinjiang 'terrorists' Chinese police in the northeastern city of Shenyang shot dead three knife-wielding Uighur militants screaming for Islamic holy war and wounded another on Monday as they tried to resist arrest, the government and state media said. "When police pursued the terrorist suspects, four terrorists armed with knives resisted arrest. Police fired shots only after the terrorists ignored warnings," the Shenyang public security bureau said on its official microblog late on Monday. The state-run Beijing News, citing the Liaoning provincial government, said the militants, from Xinjiang, were killed on Monday afternoon after police tried to enter a rented house during a raid.

Police said that the four were suspected of involvement in the "June 12 Hijra case" without elaborating what the case is about. 16 other people have been arrested in connection with the case. Hijra refers to the journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution. Chinese counterterrorism expert Li Wei pointed out that suspected terrorists used to travel to southern China but the "case in Shenyang suggests that the Hijra movement might have spread across the country." As previously discussed, the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts to prevent Uyghurs from crossing the border into Southeast Asia. When Tong Bishan from China's Ministry of Public Security recently exposed Turkey's role in Uyghur smuggling and terror operations, he mentioned that more Uyghurs are now trying to leave via northeastern China due to increased security along the borders with Laos and Vietnam. One week after the shooting in Shenyang, China's state broadcaster highlighted the growing terrorist threat in the north by airing an interview:

China arrests Uygur suspect who planned 'bomb attack' on shopping mall Police foiled a terrorist plot to bomb a shopping mall in Hebei province, state media said on Monday, as it aired a “confession” by a suspect from the far western region of Xinjiang who said he had trained for the attack in Syria. The suspect from Kashgar said in a eight-minute video on China Central Television that he had fled to Syria via Turkey for “bomb-making training” in early 2013. He said he returned to China earlier this year, staying in Shijiazhuang, where he plotted to blow up a shopping mall. The case and confession could not be independently verified, but the report underscored Beijing’s concern that the threat of terror attacks was spreading.

Furthermore, the report underscored Turkey's role in facilitating the illegal migration and terrorist recruitment of Uyghurs. According to Beijing-based analyst Jiang Zhaoyong, the Chinese authorities "wanted the video to show the danger of having a pathway in Turkey for illegal migrants to flee to overseas terrorist groups." Predictably, World Uyghur Congress (WUC) spokesman Dilxat Raxit had a different take on the video. He dismissed the confession as an attempt to "hype up hostility against Uyghurs." Beijing is getting increasingly fed up with the WUC and its Western supporters. After the shooting in Shenyang, the Global Times launched a scathing attack on the WUC and the West, emphasizing that "Chinese people are clear that some Western forces are pushing the terrorist activities in Xinjiang." As recent developments have shown, these terrorist activities are now spreading across the country:

Chinese police catch two terror suspects, seize explosives and knives after tip-off Mainland police on Friday caught two terror suspects in a pre-dawn crackdown on an alleged terrorist group based in Wenzhou in the eastern Zhejiang province. Officers seized explosives, knives and other weapons and were investigating the case, the office said on Weibo. It did not give details about the suspects' ethnicity, their plots or the number of people involved.

Li Wei, director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations' counterterrorism research centre, said the cases showed that separatists and religious extremists were exploring new routes to flee abroad for terrorist training.

Kyrgyzstan Cancels Treaty Because U.S. 'Sought Chaos'

Now it is up to the Chinese authorities to shut down the new routes. Poor intelligence and porous borders have long stymied China's efforts to stop Uyghurs from leaving via Southeast Asia but increased security along the boders with Laos and Vietnam appears to be paying off. Prior to that, many Uyghurs tried to cross into Central Asia via Kyrgyzstan. According to a Beijing-based diplomatic source, Southeast Asia became the preferred route for Uyghurs to flee the country only after Kyrgyzstan stepped up security at China's request. Joint Kyrgyz-Chinese border operations highlight the fruitful cooperation. Since Beijing is not in the business of giving awards to human rights activists, Kyrgyzstan's cooperation with China doesn't face the same difficulties as cooperation with Western partners. The U.S. just learned the hard way that the Kyrgyz government doesn't flinch from taking drastic measures if it feels offended:

Kyrgyzstan cancels cooperation treaty with United States Kyrgyzstan canceled a cooperation treaty with the United States on Tuesday, raising the stakes in a diplomatic row triggered by the award of a human rights prize to a jailed dissident. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev ordered his cabinet to renounce the 1993 Bilateral Agreement with the U.S. It will not be valid starting Aug. 20, the government said in a statement. The agreement provided for U.S. aid to Kyrgyzstan to be brought into and out of the country without the levying of taxes, customs duties or any other payment.

Moreover, the agreement ensured that U.S. personnel supporting military or civil aid programs in Kyrgyzstan were granted near-diplomatic status. Although renouncing the 1993 treaty is by no means tantamount to breaking off diplomatic relations, it is a significant step highlighting the deterioration of Kyrgyzstan's relationship with the United States. Washington didn't expect Bishkek to take such drastic measures in response to the human rights award for Azimjon Askarov. The U.S. said it was disappointed by the decision but reaffirmed that it will continue to provide assistance to the Central Asian country. USAID, which has been involved in a lot of projects in Kyrgyzstan, will now have to make do without its privileged status. Despite mounting criticism at home and abroad, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev defended the decision to cancel the agreement and went on the offensive:

Kyrgyz leader says U.S. 'sought chaos' by decorating dissident Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said on Monday the United States had sought to "create chaos" in his country by granting an award to a jailed dissident. "This (U.S. award) cannot fail to shock and, for Kyrgyzstan, this means ethnic instability and an attempt to create chaos," Atambayev told a news conference in a resort area outside the capital Bishkek. "It's just revolting. Someone needs instability in Kyrgyzstan. Someone wants these ashes to smolder all the time."

Atambayev warned that the award could nurture a dangerous "separatist mood" among Uzbeks by promoting the preconception that "there will never be justice in Kyrgyzstan" for the Uzbek community. Not everyone in the country shares Atambayev's views. Many people criticized the government for renouncing the treaty. Opposition leader Ravshan Zheenbekov even suggested bringing Prime Minister Temir Sariyev to justice for abuse of power because he was the one who signed the document. Some critics emphasized that the government probably didn't make this decision on its own but rather after getting some friendly advice from Moscow. This theory has also been promoted by the usual suspects in the media. Kyrgyz President Atambayev is clearly aware that it looks like Moscow was pulling the strings behind the scenes. Therefore, he decided to point out that Kyrgyzstan is not a Russian vassal:

Atambayev: Some Day, Russian Military Will Have To Leave Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan's president has suggested that Russia's military base in the country will have to leave at some point, perhaps in an effort to signal that even as relations with the United States suffer, he doesn't intend the country to be a Russian vassal. "We have a long term agreement, but sooner or later in the future Kyrgyzstan will have to defend itself, without relying on the bases of brotherly friendly countries," Almazbek Atambayev said at a press conference on July 27. He did suggest that the base's presence was still welcome today: the base's establishment "was due to threats which the republic can not withstand still today, so the decision on the opening of the base was correct and remains relevant today," he added.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here


The New Great Game Round-Up: June 30, 2015

Kyrgyzstan- Color Revolution Expert Richard Miles Caught Red-Handed, WUC- Turkey Highlighting "China's Brutality in East Turkestan" & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

When the Armenian authorities reluctantly approved a request by the country's energy monopoly, Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA), to increase electricity tariffs from the beginning of August by 7 Armenian dram (1.5 U.S. cent), President Serzh Sargsyan and his government didn't expect that this could turn into a huge problem. They knew full well that ENA was trying to compensate for its losses, which had been caused by graft, but figured that the people would put up with yet another rate increase - the third one over the past two years. However, this time many Armenians decided that enough was enough. What started with a small sit-in in the center of Yerevan on June 19 soon evolved into huge protests on Baghramyan Avenue. As more and more people joined "Electric Yerevan," the government began to understand the gravity of the situation and tried to nip the protests in the bud:

Armenian Police Forcefully Disperse Yerevan Protesters, 18 Injured Armenian police used force and water cannons to clear a demonstration in central Yerevan overnight after a standoff with activists protesting against rising electricity prices. In the early hours of June 23, special police forces moved to disperse hundreds of protesters who spent more than nine hours seated in the street not far from the presidential compound. The protesters insisted that their actions were peaceful and demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian revoke the decision made by state regulators to raise electricity prices by 16 percent beginning August 1.

"Electric Yerevan" Sends Shockwaves through Armenia & Russia

Yerevan police arrested 237 people but released all of them shortly thereafter. Much to the dismay of the Armenian authorities, the crackdown didn't have the desired effect. The protests continued and more people joined in. To make matters worse, Russian, Ukrainian and Western media tried to use "Electric Yerevan" to push their own agendas, thereby inflaming tensions in Armenia and abroad. The fact that ENA is fully owned by Russian energy company Inter RAO was neither lost on the protesters nor on Western media, which pointed out that the protests were not only directed against the Armenian government but, by default, also against Russia. Although many Armenians went out of their way to stress that they don't want to turn "Electric Yerevan" into a Maidan-style color revolution, Russian officials and media were not easily convinced and kept insisting that this is another Western plot:

Russian Officials See 'Color Revolution' in Armenia Russian lawmakers said Wednesday that rolling protests on the streets of the Armenian capital of Yerevan could be the first stage of a "color revolution" similar to those that have toppled governments in post-Soviet countries including Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. "It's no use deluding yourself, all 'color revolutions' developed along these lines," said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday. Other lawmakers compared the demonstrations to the collapse of a pro-Russia government in Ukraine last year, a process the Kremlin characterizes as a foreign-backed coup.

Armenia has long been tipped as a Western 'regime change' target. Given that the country is Russia's only ally in the South Caucasus, it is hard to overstate the importance of keeping Armenia in Russia's sphere of influence. When Maidan mastermind Victoria Nuland and a high-level USAID official visited Armenia during their South Caucasus tour a few months ago, many people were already expecting the worst. So it came as no real surprise that Russian lawmakers believed "Electric Yerevan" to be the color revolution that everyone had been waiting for. It didn't help that the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia denied any U.S. involvement in the protests. Armenia's close relationship with Russia has been put to the test time and again in recent months. Russian arms deliveries to Azerbaijan and the murder of an Armenian family by a Russian soldier are still a hot topic in Armenia. Therefore, the Kremlin deemed it best to appease the protesters by making some concessions:

As Protests Continue In Yerevan, Russia Concedes To Armenia On Soldier Murder Case Russia has agreed to let Armenian courts try a Russian soldier accused of murdering seven members of an Armenian family after deserting Russia's major military base in the country. The move is a major concession by Moscow, and comes as large-scale street protests in Yerevan against Armenia's Russian-owned electricity company have been gathering strength. On June 26, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met with a Russian government delegation to discuss energy fees, the issue that sparked the Yerevan protests. But the scope of the discussions was apparently wider than that, and Sargsyan's office issued a surprise announcement after the meeting: On top of that, Russia also apparently agreed to give Armenia $200 million in credit for arms purchases.

President Sargsyan thanked the Kremlin for helping him out but Moscow's concessions didn't stop "Electric Yerevan" and only whet the appetite of the protesters. Although the movement brought together many different people with different objectives and claimed to be leaderless, the protesters had agreed on three demands - the cancellation of the electricity price hike being the most important one. After initially refusing to listen to the demands, the government eventually offered to pay the additional costs until an independent audit determines whether the planned price hike is justified. Predictably, the protesters lost no time in rejecting the offer and vowed to continue the fight. However, ten days of protest have taken their toll on the people and a split within the movement has also played a part in contributing to the decline of "Electric Yerevan." So it remains to be seen in which form the protests will continue:

“No to Plunder”: Struggle at Baghramyan Avenue is politicized The struggle at Baghramyan Avenue is already politicized, this is the reason “No to Plunder” initiative decided to continue their actions at Liberty Square, member of the initiative group Vaghinak Shushanyan told reporters. “We are apolitical structure and we are dealing with the social problems, and our task is to cancel the decision to increase hike in electricity prices. This is the reason we continue our struggle at the square,” he added. Vaghinak Shushanyan previously urged the protesters to leave Baghramyan Avenue for Liberty Square and turn it into a tent city, because the logic of the struggle requires it. He also said that there are provocateurs at Baghramian Avenue who are trying to transform their civil claims into political one.

Kyrgyzstan: Color Revolution Expert Richard Miles Caught Red-Handed

Fears that the protests could be hijacked have been dismissed as "Russian paranoia" but it is noteworthy that Western propaganda outlets, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Hromadske.TV, are showing great interest in "Electric Yerevan" and have been embraced by leading figures of the movement. The Russian Defense Ministry is probably keeping a close eye on "Electric Yerevan." They are developing a manual on countering color revolutions. Depending on how the situation in Yerevan develops, they might be able to add a few pages to the manual. But Armenia is not the only post-Soviet state in Russia's sphere of influence which deserves closer attention. Since last year, Kyrgyzstan has seen a number of suspicious developments suggesting that the U.S. is trying to start a Kyrgyz Maidan. Only a few weeks after the controversy surrounding the delivery of 150 tons of "diplomatic mail" to the U.S. Embassy Bishkek, the U.S. is now again making headlines in Kyrgyzstan:

Scandal in Kyrgyzstan After Protest Organizer Seen With US Diplomat A media scandal has broken out in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan following the posting of a YouTube video showing a protest organizer meeting with the American ambassador. On Wednesday, a few dozen people organized by civil society and rights groups gathered in front of the presidential building in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, protesting a government initiative to hold a referendum which would make changes to the country's constitution. Protesters attached portraits of government officials with their faces crossed out to the presidential building's gates, and carried banners saying "Do Not Sell the Country!" and "Do Not Rape the Constitution." But the scandal, which broke out on Wednesday evening, was over an anonymous YouTube video which showed protest organizer Nurbek Toktakunov, leader of local NGO 'Precedent', meeting with US Charge d'Affaires Richard Miles shortly after the protest.

Toktakunov tried to downplay the meeting by claiming it had been planned for a long time and had no relation to the protest. Regardless of whether or not that is true, meetings between local NGO leaders and American diplomats should always raise red flags - and even more when the American diplomat in question is Richard Miles. They don't call him a "genius of color revolutions" for nothing. Although Miles serves only "temporarily" as U.S. charge d'affairs in Bishkek until a new ambassador is found, his arrival in Kyrgyzstan was met with a lot of suspicion. Judging by the revealing video, which was presumably recorded by Kyrgyz and/or Russian intelligence, the fears were justified. Moreover, this scandal will reinforce Bishkek's decision to monitor the NGOs in the country. Despite strong opposition from the usual suspects, Kyrgyzstan's parliament recently gave the go-ahead for a 'foreign agents' bill:

Kyrgyzstan Passes 'Foreign Agents' Bill in Preliminary Vote After stalling for almost two years, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has overwhelmingly passed a bill that will have a chilling effect on the Central Asian country’s vibrant civil society, if it becomes law. Local media reported that legislators voted 83 to 23 on June 4 in favor of the “foreign agents” bill. The bill – which must go through two more votes in parliament before landing on the president’s desk – is modeled on a similar law passed in Russia in 2012 that has been used to crack down on independent groups there. Kyrgyzstani rights activists fear that with Russia tightening its grip on the region, and lawmakers seemingly eager to please Moscow, the walls are fast closing in on free speech and other civil liberties.

Kyrgyzstan has indeed a "vibrant civil society." There are so many NGOs operating in the country that is difficult to keep track of all of them. The Ministry of Justice has already announced that it won't be able to carry out audits of the NGOs' financial activities, as proposed in the bill, unless its staff is being increased. Richard Miles was certainly relieved to hear that. Western opposition to the 'foreign agents' bill is not exactly grounded in a passion for democracy. In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about possible attempts by the West to destabilize the country. Last month, Kyrgyz police detained as many foreigners in the city of Osh as they could find after mysterious text messages and rumors about an imminent revolution and interethnic conflict created a stir in the south of the country in the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the 2010 South Kyrgyzstan riots. One of the messages said that the U.S. is distributing weapons to Hizb ut-Tahrir members, which is even more curious given the fact that Hizb ut-Tahrir members usually refrain from using violence and focus on radicalizing others:

Hizb ut-Tahrir printing house found in south Kyrgyzstan A clandestine press has been found at a house in Kara-Suu district, Osh Region, in southern Kyrgyzstan, which printed literature of the banned international religious and extremist organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Osh regional police spokesman Zhenish Ashirbayev told Interfax on Friday. The discovery was made during searches of the houses of eight local residents who were involved in propagating the ideas of the banned organization, he said. For his part, a regional police source said that whereas a few years ago Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters received literature from abroad, now they can print all necessary material locally, having all the necessary equipment. 

WUC, Turkey Highlight "China's Brutality in East Turkestan"

While the Kyrgyz authorities are trying to prevent Hizb ut-Tahrir and others from radicalizing the population in Kyrgyzstan, the Chinese authorities are trying to do the same in neighboring Xinjiang. And just as the Kyrgyz authorities don't care if they send a few innocent people to jail, the Chinese authorities don't care if they violate a few religious traditions. Every year, as Ramadan approaches, China's so-called "Ramadan ban" is hitting the headlines in Western media and the NED-funded World Uyghur Congress (WUC) comes out of the woodwork to remind everyone that "this will only lead to instability and conflict." Never mind that only few people are affected by the ban and that thousands upon thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang are still openly celebrating Ramadan. As regular readers of the New Great Game Round-Up may recall, Western media and the WUC like to exaggerate when it comes to China's Ramadan ban but the Chinese authorities do their bit as well:

'Many Uygurs like to drink': Chinese academic defends beer festival in Muslim region A Communist Party academic defended a government-organised beer festival in a mainly Muslim county ahead of Ramadan by saying that locals enjoyed alcohol, a state-run newspaper reported on Tuesday. Islam prohibits alcohol but authorities in Niya county, in the troubled Xinjiang region, held a beer drinking contest last Monday, three days before the start of Islam's holiest month, with cash prizes of up to US$160 for winners, the Global Times reported. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for exiled group the World Uygur Congress, slammed the festival as an "open provocation" to faithful Muslims.

As usual, our old friend Dilxat Raxit, the WUC's Sweden-based spokesman, used the opportunity to slam the Chinese goverment. Just a few days earlier, Raxit had already criticized that China is stepping up controls on religious activities in Xinjiang ahead of Ramadan. Predictably, Beijing didn't listen to Raxit's warnings that "this will only lead to instability and conflict." Shortly thereafter, at the beginning of Ramadan, Uyghur insurgents attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in the city of Kashgar. The ensuing clashes left between 18 and 28 people dead. Considering that these kind of attacks happen on a regular basis in Xinjiang, it was not surprising that Raxit's "prediction" came true within a matter of days but even some of China's allies wondered after the attack whether the WUC might have a point. The latest outbreak of violence in Xinjiang was also noticed in Turkey, where many Uyghurs have found a new home after leaving China:

Actors, academics and politicians decry treatment of Uyghurs

After 28 people were killed in East Turkestan during the holy month of Ramadan, actors, academics and politicians in Turkey have raised their voices criticizing the Chinese government and calling for the freedom of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. In Ankara, the Ülkü Ocakları, a youth organization affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), prayed at a funeral procession for those killed in East Turkestan, at the Mustafa Asım Köksal Mosque in Keçiören. Speaking after the prayer, Olcay Kılavuz, the head of the youth movement, gave a press statement where he declared that the red flag of Turkey and the blue flag of East Turkestan were equal. Kılavuz also said that members of Ülkü Ocakları would resume their struggle in favor of their brothers in East Turkestan, until their last breath. He added that the government was keeping silent about the killings and ongoing oppression in East Turkestan.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli echoed the remarks of Kilavuz and lamented on Twitter that "everbody is concerned about the fight between two terrorist groups in Kobane" but "nobody is speaking about China's brutality in East Turkestan." This didn't go down well with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who took the criticism personally and responded in the usual manner. While Bahceli and Erdogan were arguing about who has done more to help "their brothers in East Turkestan," Turkish ultra-nationalists launched a campaign on social media promoting the "liberation of East Turkestan." As previously discussed, Turkey plays a decisive role in Washington's East Turkestan project. This has led to several disputes with China in recent months. The Chinese authorities tried to put pressure on Ankara by shedding some light on Turkey's role in Uyghur smuggling and terrorism operations. And last but not least, they stepped up their efforts to prevent Uyghurs from fleeing to Turkey:

After Attempting to Join Her Husband in Turkey, Uyghur Woman Dies in Custody in Xinjiang A young ethnic Uyghur woman detained by Chinese police in February while attempting to flee the country to join her husband in Turkey has died in police custody in her native Xinjiang, according to sources in the region and in exile. Tursungul, 32 and described as healthy before she was taken into custody, died shortly after being taken to the Shaptol Township police station in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Peyziwat (Jiashi) county, a Uyghur living in Turkey told RFA’s Uyghur Service, citing sources in Xinjiang. “She died within a week and was buried somewhere by the police,” said the man, who had successfully escaped to Turkey with Tursungul’s husband some time before.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: April 21, 2015

Nemtsov Murder Investigation Hits Brick Wall in Chechnya, Double Standards for Georgian Mercenaries Fighting Abroad & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin held his 13th annual question and answer marathon session, Moscow police raided the office of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's "Open Russia" organization. The search came as no real surprise. After all, the Russian authorities have every reason to keep a close eye on dubious activities of the disgraced oligarch, who is the West's dream candidate for replacing Putin. Khodorkovsky claimed that the real reason for the raid was Open Russia's planned documentary about the role of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in the current government system. Although Khodorkovsky's words should always be taken with a grain of salt, his statement makes sense. Kadyrov's place in the current system is a hot topic, especially in light of the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. As discussed in the latest episode of Porkins Great Game, there have been some indications that elements in the Russian security apparatus are trying to pin the Nemtsov killing on Kadyrov and his men. Recent developments confirm this assumption:

Zaur Dadaev: investigators demand to testify against Ruslan Geremeev Shamsudin Tsakaev, an advocate of Zaur Dadaev, a defendant in the case of Boris Nemtsov's murder, requests investigators to re-interrogate his client. According to the advocate, Zaur Dadaev told him that the investigators forced him to testify against his colleague Ruslan Geremeev, the "RBC" reports. Initially, Zaur Dadaev has promised to show how Boris Nemtsov was murdered; however, the investigative experiment has failed, the "Rosbalt" reports. Zaur Dadaev claims that after his detention in Ingushetia on March 5, he gave a confession. After that, he was brought by plane to Moscow, where the investigators forced him to testify against Ruslan Geremeev. According to him, the text given to him by the investigators in Moscow mentioned a man with the name "Rusik": a person, who allegedly provided a pistol and a car to commit the crime, the "RBC" reports today. "There is no such person with the name Rusik. He is a mythical character invented by those who tortured me. I would never speak of Geremeev as 'Rusik', since for me, he is senior in rank and age," Zaur Dadaev told Shamsudin Tsakaev as quoted by the "RBC".

Nemtsov Murder Investigation Hits Brick Wall in Chechnya

Zaur Dadaev, the main suspect in the killing, has retracted his confession, saying that he was tortured and that he only agreed to sign the interrogation protocol in exchange for the release of a friend and colleague, who was detained along with him in Ingushetia. Dadaev is willing to undergo a lie detector test to prove his innocence and his new lawyer announced that he is changing his alibi. But regardless of whether or not Dadaev was involved in the killing, it has become clear that investigators are trying hard to implicate Ruslan Geremeev in the Nemtsov assassination. This is significant because Geremeev has close family links to State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, Kadyrov's cousin and designated successor. By implicating Geremeev in the killing, they are putting pressure on both Delimkhanov and Kadyrov. Geremeev is not a minor figure who can be sacrificed as easily as Dadaev. There have been conflicting reports about whether or not investigators were able to question Geremeev after he moved from Moscow to the heavily guarded Chechen village of Dzhalka but if Rosbalt is to be believed, Geremeev has now left Chechnya and presumably also Russia:

Geremeyev, Reported 'Organizer' of Nemtsov Murder, Said to Leave Russia Ruslan Geremeyev, the officer in the Sever Battalion who was reportedly the organizer of the Nemtsov murder, has left his native town of Dzhalka, reports. A source says he has likely left Russia. Last week, investigators from the Investigative Committee who traveled to Chechnya were unable to gain access to Geremeyev. Says Rosbalt: 

Dzhalka is the native town of Adam Delimkhanov, a senator in the Federation Council and Alimbek Delimkhanov, the commander of the Sever Battalion. The police blockade of the village is removed, the guards have disappeared from the house where Geremeyev was supposedly located. He is no longer in Dzhalka, and there is no information that he has gone to another town.

Opposition leader Ilya Yashin, a close associate and ally of Nemtsov, alleged that Geremeev has moved to Dubai. Coincidentally, Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov just spent more than a week with Chechnya’s leading bureaucrats, top religious and security figures and their families in Dubai, where Kadyrov's private horse, Candy Boy, raced in the Dubai World Cup. The Chechen leader apparently deemed it best to stay out of public attention while the Nemtsov murder investigation was inching closer to Chechnya. Perhaps he also used the time to arrange Geremeev's escape. Meanwhile, the Russian authorities face a tough decision. Chasing Geremeev is like opening a can of worms. When Putin was asked during the Q&A session why investigators didn't get access to Geremeev, he evaded the question. There is no alternative to the current system in Chechnya and nobody wants to create unnecessary problems given that the situation in the North Caucasus could deteriorate again at any time:

IS militants may appear in Caucasus, Central Asia, Europe — Iran’s defense minister Countries supporting the Islamic State (IS) extremist organization may soon send militants to Central Asia, to the Caucasus and Europe, Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said on Thursday at the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security. Western countries are trying to compensate for their military defeats by using the potential of terrorist groups, he noted. "Today, I must say with enormous regret that the countries that support IS and other terrorist groups conduct special training and logistical planning in order to send militants to Central Asia, to the Caucasus, to India. Western China and Europe in the future," Dehghan said.

Many jihadists from the Caucasus have joined ISIS and other terrorist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq. According to Russia's presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, more than 1,500 ISIS fighters are from the North Caucasus. That explains why the situation in Chechnya and the surrounding republics has been relatively calm in recent years but Russian officials never grow tired of warning that these battle-tested jihadists could return home. Although ISIS fighters have not kept their word to "liberate" Chechnya and the Caucasus, ISIS has expanded to the North Caucasus with more and more militant leaders in the region pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, much to the dismay of the Caucasus Emirate (IK). In recent months, several Chechen and Daghestani commanders have retracted their oath of obedience to IK leader Aliaskhab Kebekov, also known as Ali Abu Muhammad al Dagestani. And in light of latest successful anti-terror operation in Dagestan, the continued existence of the Imarat Kavkaz is in question - now more than ever:

Russian troops kill leader of Islamic Caucasus Emirate Russian security forces killed Ali Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, the emir of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Caucasus Emirate, during a special operations raid in the Russian Republic of Dagestan today. Since taking command of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate (ICE) in 2014, Dagestani has supported al Qaeda and opposed the establishment of the rival Islamic State. Dagestani was killed by Russian troops after he and other jihadists were surrounded in a home in the town of Buynaksk, according to VDagestan, the official media branch of Vilayat Dagestan, an ICE “province.” VDagestan’s Arabic Twitter feed posted a photograph of the slain emir. Later, the photograph and a report of his death was posted on VDagestan’s official Arabic website. According to the website, Shamil Bulakhani, a “brother” and the emir of Dagestan’s Ontsokol district was also killed.

Double Standards for Georgian Mercenaries Fighting Abroad

Kebekov had thrown his weight behind U.S./NATO puppet Ayman al-Zawahiri and the al-Nusra Front. Following his killing, ISIS should be able to increase its influence among jihadists in Russia's North Caucasus. There is only one problem: insurgents in the North Caucasus have a short life expectancy. That is probably why many jihadists prefer to travel to Syria. Not only many Russian jihadists have made their way from the Caucasus to Syria. Georgia's Pankisi Gorge has also contributed some fighters, including the famous Abu Omar al-Shishani. The Georgian government and its NATO partners have long used the Pankisi Gorge as a base for "Chechen rebels" in the fight against Russia and it has been an ideal recruiting ground for the various terrorist gangs fighting in Syria. But as more and more young men from the region join ISIS, Tbilisi is coming under increasing pressure to take action:

Georgia toughens anti-terror legislation to include recruitment for IS Georgia is to make it a crime to be a member of a terrorist organization or take part in a paramilitary group in another country. The law was drafted after calls for the government to do more to stop the flow of youth joining the war in Syria. Not only participation in paramilitary groups abroad will be punishable, but also making propaganda for them or work to recruit new fighters.

The departure of two Pankisi high-schoolers for Syria was the straw that broke the camel's back. According to parents and Pankisi residents, border guards, airport officials, Wahhabis in Pankisi and the government all have to take a share of the blame. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili tried to shift the blame on the previous government by claiming that 100 people left the Pankisi Gorge for Syria before his administration took over in late 2012 and only few people afterwards. Pankisi residents beg to differ. Blaming former President Mikheil Saakashvili usually works but this time Garibashvili won't get off the hook that easily. Tbilisi has demonstrated time and again that Georgian mercenaries fighting abroad don't have to fear prosecution. Although this might change for Georgian jihadists in Syria and Iraq, it is important to note that Georgian mercenaries in Ukraine have nothing to worry about:

Saakashvili Greets Suspected Georgian Mercenaries Fighting in Ukraine The former Georgian President turned Ukrainian Presidential aide met a group of former Georgian soldiers involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine; Mikhail Saakashvili praised them for their faithfulness to the "allied country," presented the soldiers with Easter gifts, and then prayed with them in the Kiev Church of the Nativity of Christ "for the victory of Ukraine in the war with Russia," according to the Russian daily Kommersant. Taking part in the Sunday meeting were about thirty suspected Georgian mercenaries from the Azov and Donbass battalions, as well as a group of instructors from the Patriot training center. They included Gigi Kalandadze, former Chief of Staff of the Georgian armed forces, who, along with the others, allegedly freely resigned from the Georgian army in order to fight in Ukraine, according to Saakashvili.

Saakashvili is completely in his element. It clearly bothers him that people in his home country argue that he his a greater enemy to Georgia than Putin. In Ukraine, Saakashvili is finally being appreciated and he can do what he does best - provoking a war with Russia and praying for victory. Dozens of Georgians have joined him and Kiev's forces need all the help they can get. A few days ago, another Georgian mercenary, Giorgi Janelidze, "died in Ukraine in an anti-terrorist operation," as Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Jalaghania put it. Considering that Janelidze was fighting for the infamous neo-Nazi battalion "Azov," some people will probably take issue with Jalaghania's version of events but the Deputy Foreign Minister emphasized that Janelidze's "heroism will be given appropriate honors" in Georgia. Tbilisi is now cooperating with Kiev to return the body. If it were not for Kiev's preference for Saakashvili-era officials, relations between Georgia und Ukraine would be rosy:

Interpol Drops ‘Red Notice’ for Ex-Justice Minister Adeishvili Interpol has withdrawn ‘red notice’ for Georgia’s ex-justice minister Zurab Adeishvili, who is wanted by Tbilisi for number of criminal charges, which his allies say are politically motivated. The Georgian prosecutor’s office said that in its notification Interpol cited “granting of a refugee status to Adeishvili by one of the countries” as the reason behind its decision to revoke red notice against Georgia’s ex-justice minister; prosecutor’s office said it does not know which country it was. At the time when the red notice was issued against Adeishvili, he was supposedly in Hungary, where he reportedly already had an asylum. Recently he has been informally advising Ukrainian authorities on reforms, according to his close allies and former Georgian officials now working in the Ukrainian government.

150 Tons of "Diplomatic Mail" Cause a Stir in Kyrgyzstan

Georgia's hunt for Saakashvili-era officials abroad has not been particularly successful so far because they are still enjoying Western support. To make matters worse, Saakashvili is free to plot his return and organize Maidan-style protests in Tbilisi. Given the fact that his allies have made it clear that they will take revenge for the persecution if they get the chance, the current Georgian government has every reason to be on guard. The putsch in Kiev has reminded governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that they could fall victim to similar events at any time. This applies especially to countries in Russia's sphere of influence, such as Kyrgyzstan. The specter of a Kyrgyz Maidan has haunted Bishkek since last year, when the suspicious activities of the U.S. State Department's TechCamp project and the subsequent visit of George Soros raised a few eyebrows. Lately, Kyrgyz and Russian media went into frenzy over the delivery of 150 tons of "diplomatic mail" to the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek:

US Sends Mysterious 150 Tons of 'Diplomatic Mail' to Embassy in Kyrgyzstan Washington has remained tight-lipped on a report by the Kyrgyz newspaper Delo No. that a mysterious Ukrainian aircraft delivered 150 tons of cargo with the status of "diplomatic mail" to the US Embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek late last month. According to the newspaper, the cargo was delivered during two separate flights by the AN-124 transport jet of the Ukrainian air carrier Antonov Avialinii. The flights took place between March 28 and March 30, and each time the plane was en route from the UAE capital Abu Dhabi to the Manas international airport. The newspaper recalled that in November 2013, the US Embassy in Kiev also received "diplomatic cargos" that were delivered by US Air Force transport aircraft.

Delo No. suggested that the plane might have been carrying cash which is intended for paying protesters, as was the case in Ukraine, where 60 million dollars in small bills emerged at Kiev's Maidan Square during the anti-government protests in late 2013 according to former Ukrainian spy chief Oleksandr Yakymenko. But the Kyrgyz paper pointed out that it is unlikely that the containers contained only dollar bills because they were too heavy. Other possible explanations put forward by Delo No. included "espionage equipment for the enormous basements of the new U.S. embassy building in Bishkek" and weapons. The latter theory was also endorsed by a source in Kyrgyzstan's security services. The source mentioned in this regard the U.S. arms cache, which was discovered in 2008 in a residential area close to the U.S. Embassy. At first, the U.S. Embassy Bishkek refused to comment on the 150 tons of unknown cargo before coming up with a somewhat plausible explanation:

US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan did decide to comment on delivery of “mysterious cargo” from UAE The US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan did decide to comment to news agency on the delivery of "mysterious cargo" from the UAE. As the press service of the US diplomatic mission in Kyrgyzstan said, "it was usual ship with materials for a new embassy." It confirmed that this wasn't the first such diplomatic mail. "Cargo doesn't come on schedule but as needed," the Embassy added.

Embassy spokesman John Brown told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that they are building a new building because the number of embassy officials is increasing due to the "expansion of cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and the U.S." Which expansion of cooperation he was referring to is not clear. It is more likely that the number of embassy officials is increasing because the Americans are trying to compensate for the loss of Manas Air Base or because color revolution expert Richard Miles is planning his next coup. Miles was recalled from retirement to serve as interim chief of mission in Bishkek. This aroused suspicions understandably enough. It remains to be seen whether the mysterious cargo was just building materials for the new embassy building or part of an evil plot to topple the government but it is safe to say that the Americans' activities in Kyrgyzstan are under high scrutiny:

Young Patriots of Kyrgyzstan urge law enforcement agencies to ban activities of Human rights watch Young Patriots of Kyrgyzstan urge the law enforcement agencies to ban the activities of Human rights watch. They stated it today at a press conference. According to Emil Turumbekov, they "won't allow events such as the Ukraine to happen." "We are afraid of such organizations that can quickly mobilize. We demand to expel the head of the Organization Mira Ritman out of the KR and bring for responsibility for interference in the internal affairs of our country," he said.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst

Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here


The New Great Game Round-Up: October 21, 2014

Kyrgyzstan Targets U.S. NGOs amid Fears of Kyrgyz Maidan, Georgia Freaking Out over Russia's "Attempt to Annex" Abkhazia & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Much to the dismay of the United States, Russia "has been steadily strengthening its foothold" in Kyrgyzstan in recent years. This became apparent in June of this year, when American troops vacated the important U.S. air base at Manas International Airport after the Kyrgyz government had yielded to Russian pressure and agreed to kick the Americans out. Since 2001, the U.S. had used Manas not only to support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, but also to engage in all kinds of nefarious activities. After years of unsuccessful attempts to convince Bishkek of closing the base, the Russians finally got their way a few months ago, marking "Kyrgyzstan’s new era as a Russian client state" according to Alexander Cooley, Deputy Director for Social Sciences Programming at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, which is famous for its anti-Russian bias. Cooley's statement shows that the closure of Manas was a heavy blow for the United States. Moscow lost no time in capitalizing on the departure of U.S. forces and is now apparently planning to expand Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan as well as its base in Armenia [emphasis mine]:

Russia Strengthens Air Defenses With Bases in Belarus and Central Asia

As Moscow moves to bolster its military presence in ex-Soviet allied states, the head of the Russian air force announced that Russia will establish an airbase for fighter jets in eastern Belarus in 2016, state media outlets reported Wednesday.

Colonel General Viktor Bondarev also said Moscow planned to expand its airbases in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

The three nations are members of a loose Russia-dominated security alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has accelerated efforts to create a unified air defense network as the Ukraine crisis reenergizes the West's military powerhouse, NATO.

Kyrgyzstan Targets U.S. NGOs amid Fears of Kyrgyz Maidan

Russia has been talking about its air base in Belarus since last year but location and date of the opening keep changing. Work at Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, is already making some progress. The expanding military presence is just one example of Russia's growing influence in Kyrgyzstan. Inspired by Russian legislation, Kyrgyz lawmakers are now pushing bills, which target 'homosexual propaganda' and NGOs. The Kremlin couldn't be more proud. Washington was less impressed with the Russian-style bills and the U.S. Embassy Bishkek used the opportunity "to interfere in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan." At least that's how it has been perceived in the Kyrgyz parliament. Lately, the Kyrgyz authorities have been increasingly suspicious of the activities of American NGOs in the country. One Kyrgyz MP was particularly concerned about the recent TechCamp event in Bishkek:

Kyrgyz MP concerned about meetings held with youth by NGO holding similar meetings in Ukraine prior to unrest

MP Irina Karamushkina said at today's plenary session of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan the NGO “TechCamp” is holding meetings with youth in Bishkek, which held similar meetings prior to the Maidan events in Ukraine.

“This NGO has been holding meetings with our youth for 2 weeks already. Do our special services have information about what kind of meetings this NGO is holding? This NGO held similar meetings with youth prior to the events on Maidan in Ukraine. Aren't we wasting time, while someone is shaping views of your youth?” the lawmaker interrogated.

Karamushkina's concerns with regard to the TechCamps initiative, which is led by the U.S. State Department’s Office of eDiplomacy, might seem absurd at first glance but given that former Ukrainian MP Oleg Tsarov demanded on 20 November 2013 a criminal investigation into the activities of TechCamp in Ukraine because he believed it was part of "preparations for inciting a civil war," it is probably a good idea to keep a close eye on the TechCamp events. One day after Tsarov had accused the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine of training "information war experts and potential revolutionaries to organize protests and overthrow the regime," the Euromaidan protests erupted. Although he was later proven right, Tsarov had no reason to celebrate. While running for president, he was brutally beaten by an angry mob and eventually forced to flee the country because Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky put a $1 million bounty on his head. Kyrgyz politicians want to avoid a similar fate. Therefore, American "non-governmental" organizations, such as Freedom House, are now under high scrutiny:

Activities of Freedom House in Osh suspended

In the city of Osh, activities of Freedom House international organization suspended. Media Resource Center public organization confirmed the information to news agency.

According to local journalists, Freedom House office in Osh is closed temporarily and its representative is called to Bishkek.

Azattyk notes that "previously conducted by the organization survey among ethnic Uzbeks in Osh was frustrated." According to experts and representatives of Uzbek diaspora, monitoring issues of the organization were incorrect and Freedom House staff could not explain the purpose of the survey. The organization believes that the survey was correct.

Freedom House refused to comment on the closure of its office in Osh. Only a few weeks ago, the U.S.-based NGO dismissed Kyrgyz media reports accusing the organization of plotting to overthrow the government as absurd. How dare anybody questions the ulterior motives of infamous CIA/State Department front organizations. Speaking of which, USAID and the Gülen movement are also heavily active in Kyrgyzstan. While other countries in the region are shutting down schools of the CIA-backed Gülen movement, Kyrgyzstan is still opening new Gülen schools. Considering the above, it is hardly surprising that the country continues to struggle with Islamic extremism. Especially the rise of female Islamists in Kyrgyzstan attracted attention recently. Kyrgyzstan's security service highlighted the other day that a significant number of the Kyrgyz who have gone to Syria are women. ISIS and other jihadist groups are reportedly recruiting female students from Kyrgyzstan to work as nurses in Syria:

Kyrgyz Medical Student Joins Islamic Militants In Syria  

Kyrgyz authorities say a 19-year-old medical school student from Kyrgyzstan's southern Osh region is "fighting" on the side of Islamic State militants in Syria.

Osh regional police said on October 6 that the young woman, whose name was not disclosed, had traveled to Syria via Turkey in July.

Osh regional police chief Suiun Omurzakov says jihadist groups are recruiting female students from Osh's medical school to work as nurses in Syria, promising them high salaries and arranging their trips to Syria through Turkey.

Tajikistan Struggles with Syria Blowback, Boosts Ties With Azerbaijan

Neighboring Tajikistan is facing similar problems. For the most part, the Tajik authorities are turning a blind eye to the recruitment of Tajik citizens for the various terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq in order not to upset their friends in Riyadh, Ankara and Washington. This has led to an increasing number of Tajiks being killed in the Middle East. According to the country's Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda, 50 Tajik jihadists fighting for the "Syrian rebels" have bite the dust so far. Dushanbe couldn't care less about these jihadi mercenaries as long as they are fighting and dying in the Middle East but if they manage to return to their home country, the Tajik authorities are forced to take action:

Tajik Islamists Held For Plotting Attacks

Police in Tajikistan have reportedly arrested 20 alleged Islamist militants for plotting to blow up two road tunnels.

An unidentified Interior Ministry spokesman told AFP news agency on October 18 that the group wanted to blow up the tunnels linking the center to the north of the countries.

He said all those arrested had returned to Tajikistan after fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

Some people in Tajikistan have probably realized by now that it makes sense to take a few jihadists off the streets before they leave for Syria. In recent weeks, law enforcers in Tajikistan's Sughd Region detained ten local residents who were trying to leave the country and join the "Syrian rebels." Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon could have asked his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev how to deal with this problem given the fact that Azerbaijan contributes a significant number of jihadi mercenaries as well. Aliyev visited Dushanbe this week to meet with Rahmon and other top officials. The talks were fruitful and the two post-Soviet states agreed to expand cooperation in various fields:

Azerbaijan, Tajikistan discuss expansion of ties (UPDATE)

President Aliyev, who arrived in Tajikistan on an official visit on October 15, was officially welcomed by the Tajik president at the Palace of Nations in Dushanbe on October 16. After the official welcoming ceremony, the two presidents held a one-on-one meeting.

During the official talks held in an expanded format the sides reviewed the two countries' achievements in the fields of economy and trade, and stressed the importance to further strengthen the activities of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation.

The two leaders also noted the importance to develop direct relations between the business circles of the two countries, expressed readiness to strengthen and expand the interaction in the security and defense fields, as well as cooperation in combating against terrorism, extremism and other threats of the modern world.

Combating terrorism is not necessarily Azerbaijan's strong suit. Instead the Aliyev regime is known for its relentless crackdown on NGOs, political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists and so on. After the Azerbaijani authorities had already pressured the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to close its office in Baku, the U.S. NGO IREX also halted its work in the country at the end of last month "following pressure from the Azerbaijani government," including "a police raid on its offices." Fed up with Baku's efforts to prevent the U.S. from meddling in Azerbaijan's affairs, U.S. officials reportedly warned the Aliyev regime that "recent harassment of international and Azerbaijani nongovernmental organizations is unacceptable." The criticism from Washington won't convince Baku to give U.S. NGOs a carte blanche to operate in Azerbaijan but it might have prompted Aliyev's decision to pardon a few prisoners, including three members of the U.S.-backed NIDA civic movement:

Azerbaijan frees four opposition activists in amnesty

Four jailed opposition activists in Azerbaijan have been pardoned and released as part of a wider amnesty announced by President Ilham Aliyev, state media said on Friday.

Three, all members of a youth movement called NIDA, were convicted of hooliganism, possessing drugs and explosives, and intent to cause public disorder. The fourth, Hasan Huseinly, was head of a non-governmental organisation, "Intellectual Citizen".

The opposition activists were among a group of 80 pardoned prisoners, including citizens of Turkey, Pakistan and Iran, but there were no details of the crimes these people had been sentenced for.

Georgia Freaking Out Over Russia's "Attempt to Annex" Abkhazia

Although Washington and Baku quarrel regularly over NGOs and the like, Azerbaijan is still an absolutely reliable puppet state of the United States, as demonstrated by Baku's unease about the declaration adopted at the recent Caspian Summit, which bans any future possible deployment of NATO forces in the Caspian Sea. Russia is now trying to convince Azerbaijan of closer naval cooperation in order to solidify its control over the Caspian Sea and to keep the Americans out. At the same time, the Kremlin is also trying to do the job properly in the South Caucasus. Russia offered Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia a new treaty that "proposes a merger of military forces, coordination of police and an alignment with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union." Abkhazia's new President Raul Khajimba, who lately made headlines with his announcement to close down all crossing points but one into Georgian-controlled territory, is keen on signing the agreement:

Khajimba: New Treaty with Moscow to ‘Modernize’ Abkhaz Army 

New comprehensive cooperation treaty with Russia will enhance military alliance with Moscow and help to modernize Abkhaz army, Abkhaz leader, Raul Khajimba, said at an event marking 22nd anniversary of the breakaway region’s armed forces on October 11. 

“We need to strengthen and enhance our military alliance with Russia. That is also an aim of new agreement, which we plan to sign before the end of this year. It will allow us to carry out a large-scale modernization of our army, bring to higher level its material-technical support and preparedness, and will significantly increase salaries and social protection of servicemen,” Khajimba said.

Not everyone in Abkhazia is as enthusiastic about the offer as Khajimba but given that Abkhazia is already heavily dependent on Russia, it is an exaggeration to talk about a "loss of sovereignty." Predictably, many Georgian officials freaked out when they heard of the proposed treaty and Tedo Japaridze, former Ambassador to the U.S. and former Foreign Minister, urged the government to call off this week's Abashidze-Karasin meeting. However, Zurab Abashidze, Georgia's special envoy to Russia, who represents Tbilisi in the talks with Moscow, ignored this advice. After his meeting with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, Abashidze told the media that he and his Russian interlocutor "have radically different views" on the planned treaty and that it is now up to the government to decide whether Georgia continues with this format of direct dialogue with Russia or not. The following statement of Georgia's parliament offers little hope in this regard:

Parliament Condemns Russia’s ‘Attempt to Annex’ Abkhazia

The Parliament adopted on October 17 with 80 votes a statement, which “condemns” Russia’s “attempt to annex occupied Abkhazia” through its new treaty on “alliance and integration” with Sokhumi.

If signed, the Russian-proposed treaty “will give rise to a new wave of violation of international legal norms, create an additional threat to regional stability, significantly damage the process of normalization of Russian-Georgian relations,” reads the statement.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili complained that Georgia had taken "constructive and pragmatic steps towards normalizing relations with Russia" and that Russia responds by "annexing" Abkhazia. As usual, Garibashvili and Co. are doing their best to criticize Russia without wasting any words on NATO's military build-up in Georgia. Moscow has warned Tbilisi repeatedly that the establishment of NATO-linked infrastructure in Georgia could threaten stability in the South Caucasus, to no avail. Now the gloves are coming off and the situation in the Caucasus is heating up:

Tbilisi Says to Counter Russia’s Abkhaz Moves with ‘Pro-Active’ Foreign Policy

The Georgian authorities will take measures aimed at “consolidating” and heightening international focus on Russia’s “attempt to annex” Abkhazia thought its
proposed new treaty on alliance and integration with Sokhumi, senior officials said after a meeting of the Georgian State Security and Crisis Management Council on Saturday.

Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said after the meeting that “very aggressive – meaning active” foreign policy steps will be undertaken.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: October 13, 2014

ISIS Vows to Attack Russia,Russian Warnings Fall on Deaf Ears in Georgia & Russia Prepares for Trouble in Tajik

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

After nearly four years of negotiations, the European Union and Kazakhstan finally agreed on a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) during this week's visit to Brussels by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The agreement, which is expected to be signed next year, "aims to boost cooperation in around 30 policy areas including trade and foreign and security policy." Given that the PCA is a far weaker deal than the infamous European Union Association Agreement and that the Kazakh negotiators had been "very careful that the agreement respects their country's commitments to the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union," the Kremlin won't get worked up over the agreement. With the PCA negotiations concluded, Nazarbayev travelled to Minsk to attend summits of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community and, most importantly, the Eurasian Economic Union, which welcomed a new member:

Armenia Joins Eurasian Union

After months of delay, Armenia formally joined the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on Friday, drawing praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

President Serzh Sarkisian signed a corresponding accession treaty with Putin and Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus at a summit of the Russian-led bloc held in Minsk.

Speaking at the gathering, both Putin and Sarkisian expressed hope that the treaty will be ratified by the parliaments of the EEU’s three member states by the end of this year. The Armenian president said his country should be able to “start working from January 1” as a full-fledged member of an alliance which critics fear will restore Russian hegemony over much of the former Soviet Union.

Russia Expands Eurasian Union, Prepares for Trouble in Tajikistan

Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambaev expressed hope that his country would also join the organization by year's end. The Kyrgyz government had approved a roadmap for joining the EEU just before the summit. Neighboring Tajikistan is still considering the offer and doesn't rule joining the economic bloc as well. Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon said during the talks in the Belarusian capital that Dushanbe is currently analyzing the EEU legal documents. While Kyrgyzstan has decided to cast its lot with Russia, the Tajik authorities are not yet fully convinced of this idea. Lately, some people in Tajikistan have cast doubt on Russia's intentions or abilities to fulfill its obligations with regard to the promised economic and military aid but Moscow is doing its best to assure Dushanbe that Russia will follow up its words with deeds:

Russia Promises Tajikistan "Armageddon," Polite People

Russia will build a new military training facility in southern Tajikistan to help the two countries carry out drills together, a Russian military official has said.

Few details were given about the new facility other than the name, which certainly makes a statement: "Armageddon."

"Russian soldiers will help their Tajikistani colleagues in setting up a new polygon, Armageddon, in the Khatlon province for joint training of military units of the two countries," said a spokesman for Russia's Central Military District, Yaroslav Roshchupkin.

With reference to the immensely popular 'polite people' who protected Crimea after the coup d'état in Kiev, Roshchupkin added that the Tajik language classes that Russian soldiers are going to take "are intended to form and strengthen the image of 'polite people' among soldiers of the Central Military District." A few weeks ago, two Russian soldiers were accused of murdering a Tajik taxi driver and the Russian military is now trying to prevent any further incidents, which could upset the host country. Roshchupkin made this announcement during the recent drills of the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan:

Russian Military Holds 'Antiterror' Drills In Tajikistan

Russian forces based in Tajikistan are holding military drills near the Central Asian nation's capital, Dushanbe.

A spokesman for Russia's Central Military District, Yaroslav Roshchupkin, says the maneuvers started on the Lyaur training ground on October 6.

He said more than 1,000 servicemen and 300 pieces of military hardware from Russia's 201st military base, which is located in Tajikistan, are practicing to ward off possible attacks by "international terrorists."

Tajikistan shares a long border with Afghanistan and Russia has pledged to support the Central Asian state in dealing with a possible spillover of violence from Afghanistan. Other countries in the region have also offered to provide Tajikistan with military aid to bolster the border with Afghanistan. Tajikistan has already received aid from Belarus as well as from Armenia and Tajik leader Rahmon used the meetings in Minsk to thank the two countries for their assistance. The increasing violence in northern Afghanistan doesn't bode well for Tajikistan and it is of little help that the Tajik regime is more or less turning a blind eye to the recruitment of Tajik fighters for the war in Syria. But instead of addressing these issue and going after real extremists, the Tajik authorities are busy stifling any sign of dissent and going after "extremist" opposition groups:

Tajik Opposition Group Banned As Extremist

Tajikistan's Supreme Court has banned the opposition organization Group 24.

The October 9 decision followed growing government pressure on the opposition group after it used the Internet to call for street protests in the capital, Dushanbe, on October 10.

Supreme Court judge Salomat Hakimova ruled that Group 24, which is led by fugitive Tajik businessman Umarali Quvatov, is "extremist" and therefore is banned in Tajikistan.

ISIS Welcomes IMU, Vows to Attack Russia

While the Tajik authorities were going after the "extremists" from Group 24, the arguably more dangerous extremists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) made an interesting announcement, which could affect Tajikistan as well. According to an Uzbek law enforcement official, IMU head Usman Ghazi confirmed that the group has joined ISIS. In recent months, the IMU had been fighting alongside the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). For example, the Jinnah International Airport attack in June and the Quetta airbase attacks in August were the result of joint TTP-IMU operations. Last week, some media reports alleged that the Pakistani Taliban had also pledged support to ISIS but the group lost no time in denying these reports and reaffirmed that they have declared allegiance only to Mullah Omar. Up until now, the IMU has not issued any denial and the Uzbek authorities claim to have "operational video and audio information about IMU's support and participation in joint military actions on the side of IS units." Uzbek security officials and analysts named, among others, the current financial hardship of the IMU as a key motive for the decision to join forces with ISIS:

Helplessness forces IMU to call itself an ISIL 'partner'

A recent expression of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) support for the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) betrays the IMU's weakness, analysts are saying.

The IMU lost support in Afghanistan as its brutality leads to civilian suffering, the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB) says. Now the IMU reportedly is eyeing northern Afghanistan, where most of that country's ethnic Uzbek minority lives.

"IMU militants were forced to [announce their 'alliance' with ISIL] because donations had dried up," Tashkent political analyst Linara Yuldasheva said. "They're essentially leaderless, and they're looking for someone to cling to. But this alliance can't guarantee them any more power."

Although Pakistan's Operation Zarb-e-Azb is not anything like as successful as the Pakistani military claims, the military offensive has at least forced IMU fighters and other insurgents in the Pakistani tribal areas to temporarily leave their hideouts and seek shelter in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Northern Afghanistan has long been a safe haven for the IMU, regardless of whether troops of the NATO-led security mission were stationed there or not. Both the IMU and the Taliban are now trying to exploit the ISAF drawdown and conquer even more territory. ISIS is also looking to expand its activities in Afghanistan but the group seems to have a hard time deciding on its next target. If ISIS leader Tarkhan Batirashvili aka Omar al-Shishani gets his will, the next target won't be Central Asia or China but rather Russia:

How Islamic State Grooms Chechen Fighters Against Putin

When the Islamic State commander known as “Omar the Chechen” called to tell his father they’d routed the Iraqi army and taken the city of Mosul, he added a stark message:
Russia would be next.

“He said ‘don’t worry dad, I’ll come home and show the Russians,’” Temur Batirashvili said from his home in
Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, on the border with the Russian region of Chechnya. “I have many thousands following me now and I’ll get more. We’ll have our revenge against Russia.”

Al-Shishani is the tactical mastermind behind Islamic State’s swift military gains on the ground in Iraq’s Anbar province, west of
Baghdad, including an encirclement in which his forces killed as many as 500 Iraqi troops and captured 180 more near Fallujah, according to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

Given that Gartenstein-Ross is praising the "brilliant tactical maneuvers" of the "exceptional field commander" Batirashvili, it is probably a good idea to take a closer look at the suspicious background of the Georgian ISIS commander. As mentioned two weeks ago, several jihadists from the Pankisi Gorge have left the Caucasus to follow Batirashvili's lead and dozens of Georgian citizens are now fighting for ISIS. Fighters from the Caucasus are the backbone of the mercenary army. Therefore, the Russian authorities won't be casual about Batirashvili's threat. The recent terrorist attack in Chechnya served as a stark reminder that the foreign-backed North Caucasus insurgency continues to pose a threat to Russia. One day after the suicide bombing in Chechnya, Russian security forces prevented a similar attack in the neighboring republic of Dagestan, which has become the hotbed of terrorism in Russia:

170 kg of explosives destroyed in Russia's Dagestan

Russian security forces have prevented a series of potentially “resonant” terrorist attacks, destroying almost 170 kg of explosives in the southern Republic of Dagestan. Two policemen and a militant were killed in the operation.

The militant was preliminarily identified as Alidibir Asudinov, a bomb expert and an “active member” of the so-called Kizilyurt gang, who was on the federal wanted list for terrorist crimes.

According to the Anti-Terror Committee, the gang “planned a series of resonant terrorist attacks” in the Republic of Dagestan.

Russian Warnings Fall on Deaf Ears in Georgia

Alidibir Asudinov reportedly recently returned from Syria, where had studied explosives, further highlighting the Syria-North Caucasus connection. When Foreign Policybroke the story of Georgia's offer to host a training camp for "moderate Syrian rebels," Russia was understandably alarmed. The subsequent denials from Tbilisi have failed to reassure the Kremlin and NATO's other activities in Georgia cause additional tensions between the two neighboring countries. NATO compensated the Georgian government with a 'substantive package' for the disappointment of having been denied a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the summit in Wales. Among other things, this package includes a military training center for NATO members and partners in Georgia. Moscow tried this week once again to make its position on this issue clear to Tbilisi:

NATO Presence in Georgia Could Threaten Stability in Caucasus: Russia

The placement of military infrastructure in Georgia in the interests of
NATO would pose a threat to stability in the Caucasus region, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"The Russian side has expressed concern over rumors circulated by Georgian media about plans to place elements of NATO-linked infrastructure in Georgia," the Russian ministry said in a statement.

"Such actions would threaten the existing stability in South Caucasus," the statement reads.”

The warning fell on deaf ears in Georgia. Alexi Petriashvili, Georgia's State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, countered that the closure of Russian bases in Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and Moldova (Transnistria) and the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine would be a better way of ensuring stability and security in the region. Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania took the same line emphasizing that Georgia will proceed with its integration into the U.S.-led military alliance:

NATO infrastructure in Georgia surely to be created - Ministry of Defence

NATO infrastructure in Georgia will surely be created, Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Alasania said, commenting on the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

“I would like to state that the infrastructure of NATO in Georgia will be created,” the minister said. “It is an agreement reached at the summit. NATO-Georgia package is aimed at creation of an alliance infrastructure in our country, conduction of joint military exercises. This will increase both the constraint of the aggression, which comes from Russia, and our defence.”

Just recently, Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas visited Georgia to discuss with Alasania and other top Georgian officials the idea of joint military exercises. The two post-Soviet states agreed to conduct joint drills within the framework of the NATO cooperation program in the future and after his meeting with Olekas, Alasania announced that Georgia looks set to increase its defense budget next year. But although Georgia is doing its best to expedite the military build-up in accordance with Washington's plans, the Georgian leadership seems to have a hard time understanding why Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia doesn't show any interest in Tbilisi’s "reconciliation efforts":

Breakaway Abkhazia Wants to Break Away Further 

In a move that many Georgians believe bodes ill for their remaining links with breakaway Abkhazia, the region’s new de-facto leader, Raul Khajimba, has stated he wants to eliminate all crossing points but one into Georgian-controlled territory.

“The national border with Georgia on the Enguri River will be reinforced,”
RIA Novosti quoted Khajimba as saying in reference to what most of the rest of the world sees as an administrative boundary line between Abkhazia and the Tbilisi-controlled region of Samegrelo.

“There should be only one checkpoint for reasons of national security,” Khajimba told an assembly of his party, the Forum of People’s Unity of Abkhazia.”

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: June 29, 2014

East Turkestan Project Threatens Russia-China-India Pipeline, EU Embraces Terrorist State Georgia & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

 At the beginning of this month, the United States handed back its only Central Asian air base to the government of Kyrgyzstan, after the Kyrgyz authorities had caved in to Russian pressure and refused to extend the lease on the Transit Center at Manas. Symbolizing the rocky relationship between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan, a U.S. civilian contractor at the base, who had attempted to rape a local woman, was sentenced to four years in prison on the same day the Americans officially closed the Manas base. Romania is now hosting the Pentagon's Afghanistan air logistics hub but since the Americans do not plan to leave Afghanistan or Central Asia anytime soon, a new Central Asian air base is needed as well:

Uzbekistan may provide Khanabad Airfield to U.S. to replace Kyrgyzstan's Manas

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov and U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller discussed the current situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the processes within the region, according to an official statement of the press service of the Uzbekistan's Ministry.

Experts believe that the U.S. is looking for a new platform to support its troops in Afghanistan upon the
withdrawal from the Kyrgyzstan's Transit Center at Manas Airport.

In Uzbekistan, the U.S. is interested in Khanabad Airfield that had been already provided to them in 2001. However, after the 2005 events in Andijan, the U.S. was expelled from the country for their support of local radicals. In response, Washington imposed a series of sanctions against Tashkent. Five years later, the U.S., however, realized what they had lost and began to seek

U.S. Military Not Leaving Central Asia

"Support of local radicals" translates into criticism of the actions of the Uzbek regime during the May 2005 unrest in Uzbekistan. Washington learned the hard way that Tashkent does not like to be lectured about human rights. After learning its lesson, the U.S. is now willing to disregard Uzbekistan's atrocious human rights record in favor of a comeback at the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base. Representatives of the State Department and other U.S. agencies have become quite frequent guests in Tashkent. Two weeks ago, Celeste Wallander, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia on the National Security Council, met with Uzbek leader Islam Karimov to discuss bilateral cooperation in various spheres as well as the situation in Afghanistan. Wallander also visited Kyrgyzstan during her Central Asia tour to make sure that Kyrgyz-U.S. security cooperation continues after the closure of Manas [emphasis mine]:

Kyrgyzstan, U.S. discuss further ways of security cooperation after closure of Transit Center at Manas

Vice Prime Minister Abdyrakhman Mamataliyev on June 18 met with with Celeste Wallander, Assistant to the U.S. President, Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Security Council, reported the government's press service.

Vice Prime Minister Mamataliyev thanked the U.S. Government for assistance and equipment provided to law enforcement agencies.

Celeste Wallander in turn said the main goal of her visit to Kyrgyzstan is to determine further ways of cooperation between two countries after closure of the Transit Center at Manas, which completed its mission in Kyrgyzstan.

Although the Americans have left Manas, they will retain some sort of military presence in the country and they have demonstrated in the past that this can be done without a formal military base. According to well-known analyst Alexander Knyazev, the U.S. and NATO are setting up a base for covert operations in the remote Batken region of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley. Interestingly enough, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) used to have a very strong presence in Batken Province. The region served as a refuge and recruitment ground for the IMU and especially the two enclaves So'x and Vorukh have been hotbeds of IMU support. But given the fact that the U.S. government is supporting the renovation and construction of police stations in the Batken region and other parts of the Fergana Valley, the Kyrgyz authorities will hardly have to worry about a comeback of the IMU in the region. After all, the U.S. is known for its benevolence and Knyazev's concerns about the dozens of Western NGOs working in Batken Province are therefore completely unfounded as well. For some inexplicable reason, the deep mistrust towards NGOs, which are financed from abroad, is not limited to Russia:

Kyrgyzstan: Nationalists Again Pushing "Foreign Agents" Bill

Nationalists are renewing efforts in Kyrgyzstan to secure vague legislation to require non-profit organizations that receive money from abroad to register as foreign agents.

MP Tursunbai Bakir uulu, one of the new bill’s sponsors, told on June 17 that he hopes parliament will consider the measure before it adjourns for its summer recess at the end of June. “NGOs need to be more transparent,” Bakir uulu said. “Society needs to know how the money sent from abroad is spent.”

Bakir uulu’s initiative marks the second attempt to pass ““oreign agents” legislation targetting organizations that engage in "political activities." The first attempt stalled in parliament.

Considering that some NGOs are doing their best to thwart Kyrgyzstan's accession to the Russia-led Customs Union, there is some evidence to support the 'foreign agent' accusations. In order to counter these efforts, the Kyrgyz government has launched a large-scale campaign to convince the public of the planned accession. Bishkek is also trying hard to get the best possible deal from Moscow and Astana before the country joins the soon-to-be Eurasian Economic Union by the end of this year. This will further strengthen Russian influence in Kyrgyzstan, much to the dismay of the United States. Meanwhile, China is not standing idly by either. Since Kyrgyzstan borders China's vital Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the stability of the Central Asian state is of prime importance to the Chinese authorities. Beijing offered Bishkek to support infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan and a delegation of the China Development Bank (CDB), led by the head of the Xinjiang office, visited the Kyrgyz capital this week to discuss the matter with Kyrgyz officials:

Kyrgyz government reaches agreement with China Development Bank concerning support of projects in Kyrgyzstan

Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Joomart Otorbayev on June 25 met with the delegation of the China Development Bank, reported the government's press service.

“We are grateful to China Development Bank for a prompt reaction to our request of intensification of cooperation, as well as assistance provided by the Bank to its Kyrgyz partners – RSK Bank and Aiyl Bank – in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Interbanking Association,” Joomart Otorbayev added.

The sides agreed to produce a master plan for Issyk-Kul region development, considered several priority infrastructure projects included into the National Sustainable Development Strategy until 2017.

East Turkestan Project Threatens Russia-China-India Pipeline

China's interest in the stability of the region is primarily based on the need to supply the Chinese economy with an ever-increasing amount of energy via Central Asian pipelines, which run to Xinjiang. This month, the third line of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline started to transport natural gas from the Turkmen-Uzbek border through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan to Xinjiang and the construction of another line of the pipeline is expected to be launched at the end of this year. Xinjiang's importance in Pipelineistan will only increase in the future, as more and more countries eye pipeline projects involving China's Far West. The new Indian government was apparently inspired by the recent Russia-China 'gas deal of the century' and is now looking to get in on the act, which means more trouble for the United States and another pipeline for Xinjiang: 

Gas pipeline to China: India to talk to Russia for extension

India is set to start negotiating with Russia the extension of a $30-billion gas pipeline Moscow plans to build to China till the Indian border. If the proposed pipeline from Russia via China's Xinjiang province materialises, it will be among the world's most expensive gas pipelines.

Sources said given Narendra Modi government’s intent to bolster sourcing of oil and gas to meet the country’s rising energy demand, an Indian delegation would take up discussions on the proposed pipeline’s extension with Moscow and Beijing during the BRIC summit in July.

The proposal would also be in focus when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India later this year.

India and Russia are also planning to construct a similar oil pipeline through Xinjiang, a project which has been on the drawing boards for years. Due to Russia's eastern energy pivot, the implementation of these major pipeline projects is more likely than ever before and Xinjiang's stability will play a decisive role in this regard. Last month's terrorist attack on a market in Urumqi, which shocked China just hours after the historic gas deal with Russia had been signed, serves as a warning that the destabilization of the autonomous region will continue. Washington vehemently opposes Russia-China-India pipelines for obvious reasons and might be tempted to expedite its East Turkestan project. The situation in Xinjiang is already very tense. Beijing responded to the Urumqi attack by launching a one-year-long no-holds-barred anti-terror campaign and the first month was quite eventful:

32 terror groups busted in Xinjiang

A total of 32 gangs were busted; over 380 suspects apprehended; and 315 people convicted in the first month of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region anti-terror campaign.

Public security departments seized 264 explosive devices, 3.15 tonnes of explosives and 357 controlled knives, Wang Qianrong, deputy head of the regional public security department, told a news briefing.

Last Monday, thirteen people were executed for organizing, leading and participating in terrorist groups; murder; arson; theft; and illegal manufacture, storage and transportation of explosives,in Aksu, Turpan and Hotan. On the same day, three people were sentenced to death by Urumqi Intermediate People's Court for an attack in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square in October 2013.

This week, Chinese authorities released graphic video footage of several terrorist attacks in China, including the Tiananmen Square attack last October and the Urumqi attack in May. The footage has been included in a 24 min documentary about online terrorist propaganda of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The documentary, which was released by the State Internet Information Office to "educate Internet users on the consequences of spreading terror and violent videos", emhpasizes that most perpetrators of attacks in China had watched videos or listened to recordings made by the ETIM. Therefore, China has launched a crackdown on online terrorist propaganda and urged the international community to support these efforts. Furthermore, the Chinese government is trying to engage the population more in its War on Terror. As previously discussed, citizens in Xinjiang who provide information about terror-related activities and other "potential hazards to society”, such as growing a beard, are being rewarded with up to 50.000 yuan. This reward system is now being extended: 

China to reward terror informants

China's Ministry of Public Security has promised substantial rewards for those who give information to the "people's war" against terrorism.

Rewards will be according the value of the information in preventing terrorist attacks or catching suspects. The actual amount will be decided by local police according to the regional financial situation.

Among the areas which have already made public their rewards, the ceiling is 500,000 yuan (80,000 U.S. dollars) in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, 200,000 yuan in Yunnan Province, and there is no ceiling in Shenzhen City.

EU Embraces Terrorist State Georgia

Some people in Russia's North Caucasus, which faces similiar problems like Xinjiang, are considering to take a different approach, punishment instead of rewards. Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the head of the Russian Republic of Ingushetia, threatened last month to punish the family members of insurgents if they fail to convince the jihadi relatives to lay down their arms. This would be done by distributing the photos of terrorist suspects across the republic so that the relatives of victims could retaliate against the suspects' families. Lately, Ingushetia saw an increase in terrorist activites and if Yevkurov decides to allow traditional blood feuds it might eventually challenge even Dagestan in terms of violence:

Warlord killed in Russia's troubled Republic of Dagestan

A warlord was killed in an attempt to escape in the city of Makhachkala, the capital of Russian North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, the information centre of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee told ITAR-TASS.

“On Thursday morning, Makhach Taimudarov, born in 1976, a warlord of gangs rampaging in Dagestan was killed in an attempt for an armed breakthrough from the private house blocked by commandoes in a combat operation in the city of Makhachkala,” the committee’s information centre said.

“In 2005 Taimudarov was ousted from a local mosque for spreading extremist religious views,” the information centre reported. According to the Federal Security Service department, he has been abetting to bandits since 2007 and has recently got in close ties with Aliaskhab Kebekov who led all North Caucasian gangs after warlord Umarov was killed.

As regular readers of the New Great Game Round-Up will know, the North Caucasus insurgency is being enabled and fueled by several states on behalf of the United States. The role of Russia's southern neighbor Georgia in supporting NATO's jihadi mercenaries has been discussed before and is now again in the spotlight due to the ISIS offensive in Iraq. While the media prefers to ignore the real masterminds of the ISIS campaign, there has been some interest in ISIS commander Omar al-Shishani aka Tarkhan Batirashvili who leads us directly to a joint US-Georgia terrorist recruitment and training program: 

​ISIS in Iraq stinks of CIA/NATO ‘dirty war’ op

Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for the US-based Veterans Today (VT) website, told me that Batirashvili “is a product of a joint program of the US through a front NGO called Jvari, which was set up by US Intelligence and the Georgian National Security Council, dating back to the early days of the Pankisi Gorge.”

Jvari is the name as well of a famous Georgian Orthodox monastery of the 6th century. According to Silverman, David J. Smith—head of something in Tbilisi called the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, as well as the Potomac Institute in Washington where he is listed as Director of the Potomac Institute Cyber Centerr—played a role in setting up the Jvari NGO.

Silverman maintains that Jvari in Rustavi, near the capital, Tbilisi, gathered together Afghan Mujahideen war veterans, Chechens, Georgians and sundry Arab Jihadists. They were sent to the infamous Pankisi Gorge region, a kind-of no-man’s lawless area, for later deployment, including Iraq and Syria.

Georgia is doing its best to please the U.S. and NATO but even the willingness to host various terrorists on its territory has been not enough to obtain NATO's much-desired Membership Action Plan (MAP). Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen promised the Georgian government a "substantive package" ahead of the NATO summit in September to help Georgia "come closer" to the U.S.-led military alliance but due to stong opposition from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tbilisi will have to wait for the MAP a little longer. Nevertheless, Georgia is moving closer to the West with the signing of the EU Association Agreement, much to delight of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who immediately celebrated that Washington is one step closer to realizing a "Europe whole and free", which means the consolidation of a unified Europe controlled by Brussels on behalf of the United States:

EU signs association accords with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova

The European Union on Friday signed association accords with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova as the three former Soviet republics committed themselves to a future in Europe.

"This is a great day for Europe... the European Union stands by your side today more than ever before," European Council head Herman Van Rompuy said at the ceremony with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and prime ministers Irakli Garibashvili of Georgia and Iurie Leanca of Moldova.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: April 6, 2014

NATO Eyes Ex-Soviet States-Russia Eyes Iran, the Struggle for Tajikistan & More

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Thanks to the Ukraine crisis, the Cold War military alliance NATO does not need to pretend anymore that it is fighting terrorism and can continue its never-ending struggle against Russia right out in the open. The terror threat was quickly replaced by the Russian threat and NATO is non-stop fear-mongering about a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO's top military commander, is leading the way and if he is to be taken seriously, Russian troops will have conquered Ukraine by now. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss an appropriate response to the non-existent buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine's eastern border. The U.S.-led military alliance considers, among other things, to expedite the encirclement of Russia: 

NATO plans stronger military ties to ex-Soviet states south of Russia

Before the meeting, a Nato committee drafted plans "for promoting stability in eastern
Europe in the current context" by increasing military co-operation with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova – all in Russia's "near abroad" and considered by Moscow as falling within its sphere of influence.

A confidential seven-page paper leaked to the German news weekly Der Spiegel proposed joint exercises and training between Nato and the three countries, increasing the "interoperability" of their militaries with Nato, and their participation in Nato "smart defence" operations.

The paper also proposed opening a Nato liaison office in Moldova, military training for Armenia, and projects in Azerbaijan aimed at securing its Caspian Sea oil and gas fields.

NATO Eyes Ex-Soviet States, Russia Eyes Iran

While Azerbaijan and Moldova have been eyed as future NATO members for quite some time, Armenia is a vital member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Russia's only ally in the South Caucasus. The above-mentioned NATO committee must have missed that the Armenian government has decided to join Russia's team in the new Cold War and demonstrated this during the recent vote in the UN General Assembly, when Armenia was one of only 11 nations rejecting the anti-Russian resolution. Armenia's arch-enemy Azerbaijan, on the other hand, enjoys a very close relationship with NATO and the Aliyev regime is definitely interested in further cooperation:

Number of Azerbaijani officers increases in NATO

Azerbaijan plans to increase the number of the officers serving in NATO in summer, the press service of the Defense Ministry reported on March 25.

At the present time, seven officers of the Azerbaijani Armed forces serve at several NATO headquarters.

Furthermore, about 900 servicemen's are expected to participate at 90 events in the framework of the Individual Cooperation Program with NATO in 2014. Some 81 of the events are scheduled to be held in foreign countries and nine of them in Azerbaijan. Over 1000 Azerbaijani soldiers attended 100 events in this program last year. Most attention was paid to the issues of defense strategy, military training , military education, material-technical supply, logistics , international humanitarian law , budget and resource management and others.

Due to its strategic location, Azerbaijan is of pivotal importance to Washington and Brussels. The country in the South Caucasus serves as base for NATO's regional jihadi operations and Azerbaijani gas is expected to lessen Europe's dependence on Russian gas. Therefore, Azerbaijan might benefit significantly from the Ukraine crisis but, to the dismay of Washington, the same goes for neighboring Iran: 

Iran, Russia working to seal $20 billion oil-for-goods deal: sources

Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions, people familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

A Russian source said Moscow had "prepared all documents from its side", adding that completion of a deal was awaiting agreement on what oil price to lock in.

The source said the two sides were looking at a barter arrangement that would see Iranian oil being exchanged for industrial goods including metals and food, but said there was no military equipment involved. The source added that the deal was expected to reach $15 to $20 billion in total and would be done in stages with an initial $6 billion to $8 billion tranche.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West that it is prepared to change its stance on Iran if the warmongers in Washington and Brussels are determined to play Cold War. The oil-for-goods deal could be the first step towards a strategic partnership between Moscow and Tehran, considering that some voices in Russia are already calling for closer military cooperation with Iran. At the latest when the first S-300 air-defense systems are delivered to Iran, the Obama administration will be starting to realize that provoking Russia was not the best idea. Faced with the sanctions-busting oil deal, the United States, concerned about the future of the Petrodollar, is threatening to impose new sanctions against Russia but this will not deter the Kremlin from doing business with Iran [emphasis mine]:

Russian Government Working on New Iran Oil Deliveries Scheme

The Russian Cabinet of Ministers is discussing a new scheme for possible Iran oil deliveries via an independent trader, instead of Russia's oil giant Rosneft, the Kommersant business daily said Friday, citing Russian government sources.

"This will be a company registered in Russia, which does not work on the international markers, as opposed to Rosneft. In other words, there will be no pressure tools on it," Prime business news agency cited Kommersant sources as saying.

Afghanistan Troubles CSTO, SCO

Washington's new sanctions would certainly have more teeth than the previous travel bans, which have targeted, among others, Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's anti-drug service. Ivanov was not amused and accused the United States of deliberately obstructing further anti-trafficking cooperation in order to hide its responsibility for the drug crisis in Afghanistan. It is a debatable point whether Russia is interested in fighting drug trafficking or in getting its share of the multi-billion dollar opium business in Afghanistan. However, the biggest achievement of the United States and NATO in Afghanistan is beyond dispute:

Afghan H-bomb: Record opium harvest, billions burn in 'war on drugs'

Since the US came down on the Taliban and occupied Afghanistan in 2001, heroin production in the country has surged almost 40-fold. One year ago the estimated number of heroin addicts dying due to Afghan heroin in the preceding decade surpassed well over one million deaths worldwide.

Last year, Afghanistan harvested a record quantity of opium. The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board maintains that Afghan poppy fields now occupy a record 209,000 hectares, a 36 percent increase from 2013.

NATO's efforts in "combating" Afghan drug trafficking and the reluctance of the military alliance to cooperate with other players were also heavily criticized by CSTO chief Nikolai Bordyuzha this week, when he met with CSTO foreign ministers in Moscow to discuss the precarious situation in Afghanistan. In the run-up to the presidential elections, foreigners have been leaving the country like never before during an election period and although the violence did not stop the Afghan people from voting, the prospects for Afghanistan are bleak. Hence the CSTO is concerned about the security of its neighboring member states:

CSTO expecting Afghan armed gangs' breakthrough attempts

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is expecting breakthrough attempts by Afghan armed gangs across member-states' borders, but rules out a large-scale invasion, CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha said in an interview with ITAR-TASS.

According to the CSTO secretary general, the number of clashes on the Tajik-Afghan border has increased by several times to 35 in the past six months. "These are attempts by armed gangs to break through the state border of Tajikistan, they are drug mafia and armed groups engaging in other things, such as politics," Bordyuzha said.

On top of that, CSTO is expecting attempts to ideologically influence the population of Central Asia countries and set up underground extremist groups in CSTO member-states which would be led by Afghan emissaries.

CSTO Secretary General Bordyuzha also addressed concerns regarding the planned deployment of Iskander-M missile systems near the Kazakhstan-Russia border and emphasized that the Russian-led military alliance does not intend to deploy any Iskanders in Central Asia because the powerful missile system is obviously not the appropriate weapon to deal with threats emanating from Afghanistan. Instead the CSTO will join forces with the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to pursue a more reasonable strategy. At the beginning of this week, SCO defense ministers met in the Tajik city of Khujand to discuss plans for post-2014 Afghanistan:

Russia, Uzbekistan Floating Plans To Create "Buffer State" In Afghanistan

The most intriguing suggestion to come out of the meeting, though, is that regional countries are apparently discussing plans to strengthen regional power brokers in northern Afghanistan as a means of combating the spread of instability into Central Asia and Russia. "Russia and its allies in the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, after the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, will create on its borders with the [post-Soviet states] several buffer territorial formations, which will prevent the infiltration of instability from that country into other governments," Russian newspaper
Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported, citing "military-diplomatic sources," saying that plan was discussed in the closed session of the Khujand meeting. "Similar mini-governments existed in Afghanistan in the 1990s."

As previously discussed, especially Uzbekistan's government is in favor of creating "mini buffer states" in northern Afghanistan and there have already been talks with Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is one of the preferred regional power brokers. If CSTO and SCO go ahead with these plans, this will most likely entail a rapprochement between Uzbekistan and Russia. Relations between the two countries have been problematic in the past, as demonstrated by Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the CSTO in 2012.

The Struggle for Tajikistan

Neighboring Tajikistan enjoys a far better relationship with Russia and hopes that the meetings within the framework of the SCO will further improve Tajik-Russian military cooperation. Moscow has already vowed to assist the Tajik authorities in protecting the Tajik-Afghan border. Furthermore, Dushanbe can count on Beijing's support. Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, who travelled to Tajikistan this week to attend the SCO meeting, assured Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon that China will support the Central Asian country in strengthening its defense power and counterterrorism capability with some serious military aid:

China Promises Tajikistan "Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars" In Military Aid

China's defense minister, on a visit to Tajikistan, has promised the Central Asian country "hundreds of millions of dollars" in military aid which -- if true -- would be a dramatic policy change for Beijing, which has focused more on economic ties in Central Asia.

The defense minister made the comments at a joint appearance with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe, reported ITAR-TASS:

“China is satisfied with the level of bilateral cooperation in all spheres, including military and military-technical and guarantees assistance to Tajikistan in the strengthening of its defense capacity,” Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said. He said China would supply military uniforms and help in the training of military personnel, adding that this would involve “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

Whether China's defense minister was alluding to the expensive Chinese-sponsored training exercises under SCO auspices or really meaning "hundreds of millions of dollars" in military aid for Tajikistan is not entirely clear. At any rate, the United States will keep a close eye on China's activites in Tajikistan because Washington plans to remove the country from Beijing's and most importantly Moscow's sphere of influence:

US's New Silk Road: attempt to re-orient Tajikistan from ties with Russia

Already in April Tajikistan will witness a substantial inflow of American politicians and experts. Washington and Dushanbe are planning to conduct bilateral political consultations in the area of economy and security. But the main goal of the US delegation is to offer Tajikistan a chance to participate in the American program the New Silk Road. 

According to Alexander Knyazev, an oriental studies specialist, another hidden goal of the American concept of the New Silk Road is to change the format of relations on the post-soviet territory. Washington's plan assumes a gradual re-orientation of Tajikistan from its traditional economic ties with Russia and Kazakhstan towards developing contacts with Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the analyst doubts that the American project would be economically beneficial for Dushanbe.

Moreover, the CIA considers to relocate its drones to Tajikistan in the unlikely event that all U.S. forces are forced to leave Afghanistan and the United States attaches great importance to the relationship between its Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and the Tajik Special Operations Forces. After SOCCENT Commander Michael K. Nagata had visited Tajikistan earlier this year to meet with senior U.S. and Tajik officials, his deputy Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer did the same on April 1st. If the Russians are to be believed, he was one of the American visitors who will make an appearance in Tajikistan in order to steer the country away from Russia. However, the Russians will be concerned about some non-American visitors as well. Tajik President Rahmon recently invited the President of Azerbaijan, U.S. puppet Ilham Aliyev, and Saudi King Abdullah to visit Tajikistan [emphasis mine]:

Tajik president invites Saudi King to visit Tajikistan

Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov yesterday met in Riyadh with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia.

According to the Tajik MFA information department, Aslov conveyed President Rahmon’s official message for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

In his message, President Rahmon reportedly expresses readiness for expansion of bilateral cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and invites Saudi King Abdullah to pay visit to Tajikistan. The invitation was accepted with gratitude.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: February 23, 2014

CIA Drones in Central Asia, Russia to Take Control of Manas Airport, China Fights Separatism & More

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Although Washington is currently busy installing a new puppet regime in Ukraine and simultaneously trying to topple governments in Syria, Venezuela and elsewhere, President Obama still found time this week to meet with the Dalai Lama at the White House. Warnings from China that this meeting could "seriously damage" Washington's ties with Beijing were ignored as usual. The Chinese government does not tolerate any separatist activities, regardless of whether it concerns Tibet, Inner Mongolia or East Turkestan and Beijing hopes to change Western opinion in this regard:

China says it will win West over to its view on Tibet, Xinjiang

China has "time on its side" to win over Western opinion to its point of view on the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, a senior official wrote on Wednesday, vowing with unusually strong language to ignore foreign pressure on human rights.

Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to parliament, acknowledged this would be a difficult task but said dissenting voices were beginning to be heard in the West.

Zhu said the West would finally "see the real face of the Dalai clique and 'East Turkestan'," referring to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the militant forces China says operate in Xinjiang.

China Fights Separatism, Pushes Economic Corridor

The Chinese authorities know very well that the Dalai Lama, his friend Rebiya Kadeer and other anti-Chinese leaders are being supported by the West because the U.S. wants no less than the national disintegration of China. With the struggle for Tibet's independence not making any progress, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is now also promoting the independence of East Turkestan, which is the current focus of Washington's efforts to destabilize China. These efforts were highlighted in recent weeks when several terrorist attacks rocked Xinjiang. Terrorist activities in China are largely confined to the autonomous region but the 2013 Tiananmen Square attack demonstrated that other parts of the country could be targeted as well and Beijing's police counts on the population to prevent similar attacks in the Chinese capital:  

Beijing to reward terrorism whistleblowers

Police in Beijing announced on Friday informants who expose terrorist plots will be rewarded.

Those who provide extremely important information that contributes significantly to the prevention or investigation of violent terrorist activities will be rewarded with at least 40,000 yuan (6,539 U.S. dollars), according to the bureau.

However, it is doubtful if the Uyghur "freedom fighters" will carry out more attacks in Beijing instead of focusing on Xinjiang. After all, China's far west is not being targeted by accident. The autonomous region is, for example, an integral part of the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This trade corridor will link the Pakistani port of Gwadar with Kashgar, the capital of the identically named prefecture in Xinjiang, which makes the headlines regularly due to terrorist attacks. In fact, the mega project is threatened by terrorism on both ends. Nevertheless, Beijing and Islamabad emphasized the importance of the economic corridor during the recent trip of Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain to China and agreed to accelerate the construction:

Pakistani, Chinese Leaders Pledge To Push 'Economic Corridor'

Pakistan and China have signed agreements to build a new airport and upgrade the Karakorum Highway as part of efforts to accelerate development of an "economic corridor." 

The agreements signed included a preliminary accord for constructing an international airport at the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

Islamabad is determined to go ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor despite strong opposition from Washington. U.S. pressure has already impeded the construction of another very important Pakistani project, the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline. With the House of Saud now also working against the pipeline, the prospects for this project are bleak. Therefore, the Pakistani government is probably not willing to give up on the economic corridor as well.

CIA Drones in Central Asia

Meanwhile, the Obama regime is making sure that the CIA will be able to continue violating Pakistan's sovereignty with its drones even if all American troops are forced to leave Afghanistan at the end of this year:

U.S. seeks new bases for drones targeting Al Qaeda in Pakistan

Obama administration is making contingency plans to use air bases in Central Asia to conduct drone missile attacks in northwest Pakistan in case the White House is forced to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan at the end of this year, according to U.S. officials.

The CIA cannot fly drones from its Afghan drone bases without U.S. military protection, according to several American officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. If the bases are evacuated, the CIA fleet of armed Predator and Reaper drones could be moved to airfields north of Afghanistan, U.S. officials say, without naming the countries.

The article goes on the mention the Central Asian countries, which could provide a new home for the CIA's drones, with the most likely candidates being Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan is relatively immune to Russian pressure and the Americans already used an air base in the country to conduct drone flights until they were evicted in 2005. Just this week, a delegation from the U.S. National Defense University visited Uzbekistan's capital to meet with leaders of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry. The only obstacle to a fruitful Uzbek-American cooperation is Washington's habit of criticizing the Uzbek regime for its horrific human rights record. So the U.S. government is now doing its best to ignore Islam Karimov's disregard for human rights and to treat him like all the other dictators who are backed by the United States:

As Uzbekistan's Utility To U.S. Drops, Military Aid Bolstered

The U.S. Congress has again given the State Department the go-ahead to give military aid to Uzbekistan in spite of concerns about the country's poor record on human rights, a State Department official has told The Bug Pit.

It should be noted that the waiver is renewed, and U.S. military aid is growing, as Uzbekistan's utility to the U.S. is dropping dramatically. While Uzbekistan played a key role in getting equipment in to Afghanistan, it has been much more reluctant to help the U.S. get its equipment out, which is the main task now. Less than one percent of U.S. equipment leaving Afghanistan now travels via the Northern Distribution Network, ostensibly the key piece of cooperation between the U.S. and Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan's neighbor Tajikistan appears to be the other candidate for the new drone base. Although the Tajik regime is highly susceptible to Russian pressure and Moscow vehemently opposes an American base in Tajikistan, some indications suggest that Washington and Dushanbe are considering this option:

Where In Central Asia Would The U.S. Put A Drone Base?

For what it's worth, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency
just advertised for a job for an intelligence officer to be posted in Dushanbe to work on "short and long term analysis of military capabilities, infrastructure or political-military issues."

At the end of last month, Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of U.S. special operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, met with senior U.S. and Tajik officials in Dushanbe to discuss "issues of bilateral security cooperation" and "continued military cooperation" between the United States and Tajikistan. This week, Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commander of U.S. Army Central Command (ARCENT) also visited the Tajik capital to do the same:

Commander of U.S. Army Central Command visits Central Asian states

General Terry met with U.S. Ambassador Susan Elliott to consider ongoing military cooperation between the United States and Tajikistan, including cooperation between the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan and ARCENT.

Convincing the corrupt Tajik authorities to host a CIA drone base is certainly not the most difficult task. If the United States finally decided to support the Rogun Dam, the issue would already have been resolved. The Tajik regime has been lobbying hard for this project in Washington via the state-owned Tajik Aluminium Company (Talco):

Tajikistan Using DC Proxies to Build Support for Rogun Dam

According to
Justice Department filings, Talco pays the lobbying firm, Fabiani & Company, a $1.2-million annual retainer to “develop a favorable US-Tajikistan relationship” and “educate” American officials about Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon’s dream project: Rogun, the would-be tallest hydropower dam in the world. The contract, which began in October 2012, has led to dozens of meetings involving Fabiani representatives and US officials. Fabiani also has pushed story ideas that have evolved into puff pieces in US media.

Russia to Take Control of Manas Airport

Moscow will certainly keep a close eye on the rosy Tajik-American relations, while efforts to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan border continue. Nikolay Bordyuzha, Secretary General of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, was in Dushanbe this week to keep Tajik leader Emomalii Rahmon informed on the progress of the CSTO's joint program to protect the threatened border, which had been initiated during the CSTO summit in Sochi last September:

Tajikistan needs serious support for protection of its border with Afghanistan, says CSTO SG

“We are currently working on this program, a working group has been set up,” said Bordyuzha. “All CSTO member nations have made commitments to provide support for development of border infrastructure that includes technical means, construction of frontier posts and border crossing points, etc.”

“Belarus has made a decision to provide quite considerable funds and we have handed over the nomenclature of these funds to Tajik border guards. Armenia has made a decision to purchase all terrain vehicles (ATVs) for Tajik border guards. Kazakhstan has also made an appropriate decision. Russia has already worked out the nomenclature and just approval of the president is needed,” Bordyuzha added.

According to Bordyuzha, massive incursions from Afghanistan into Tajikistan are unlikely but the instability in Afghanistan will nevertheless affect the Central Asian country. Since the same goes for neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz weapons and military hardware are currently being repaired and modernized in Russia. Moscow pledged to support Kyrgyzstan after NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan but Russia's assistance is of course not free of charge. At first Bishkek had to kick the Americans out of the Transit Center at Manas and now the Russians are looking to take advantage of this:

Bishkek May Cede Control Of Manas Airport To Russia

The Kyrgyz government says it may cede control of the country's Manas airport near the capital, Bishkek, to Russia. 

On February 19, a Russian delegation signed a preliminary agreement with Kyrgyz authorities that includes the ownership of the airport, which has also been used as a transit center for NATO troops and supplies, and is currently hosting U.S. military personnel.

Kyrgyz Deputy Energy Minister Raimbek Mamyrov told reporters in Bishkek on February 20 that, according to the document signed by the two sides, Russia's state-controlled Rosneft oil giant expressed its willingness invest some $1 billion into the modernization of Manas airport in exchange for obtaining 51 percent ownership of the facility.

At any rate, the Russians will not use the airport to meet with jihadi mercenaries like the Americans used to do. Considering that terrorism is already a huge problem in Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz authorities will certainly prefer the Russian presence. Although a few terrorist recruiters were recently busted, Bishkek struggles to contain the recruitment of young men for jihad in Syria and elsewhere. The problem is most prevalent in the south of the country, where Kyrgyzstan's intelligence agency arrested once again several terrorists at the beginning of this week:

National security agency foils actions of terrorists planning terrorist attacks in Kyrgyzstan

The State National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan foiled activities of the underground terrorist group in Osh region plotting terrorist attacks in Kyrgyzstan.

Six natives of Osh region were detained. The security agency found some detained members of the group underwent training at camps of international terrorist organizations in Syria and participated in the hostilities there. Others were representatives of the crime world.

The group intended to obtain firearms and special means to organize terrorist attacks in Osh and Bishkek, armed assaults at rich people.

A few days later, the Osh police also explained how these Kyrgyz citizens came up with the idea to start a career as jihadi mercenaries [emphasis mine]:

Detained terrorist group led by Osh mosque deputy imam - Kyrgyz police

A deputy imam of an Osh mosque was in charge of the terrorist group trained in the camps of transnational terrorist organizations in Syria and detained in southern Kyrgyzstan, the Osh police told Interfax on Wednesday.

Detectives learned that the group leader was trained in a religious school in Syria and studied in the United Arab Emirates.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: February 16, 2014

Georgia Wants NATO Membership & More War, ETIM Threatens Kyrgyzstan & More

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Considering all the terrorism fear-mongering in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, the last few days in Russia's North Caucasus have been remarkably uneventful. Besides the usual anti-terror operation in Dagestan, resulting in three dead insurgents, and Tengiz Guketlov, terrorist leader from Kabardino-Balkaria, claiming responsibility for the six killings in the Stavropol region last month, there is not much to report. Terror mastermind Prince Bandar bin Sultan is apparently not going to act on his threats because he is busy supplying the al-Qaeda mercenaries in Syria with more anti-aircraft missiles and his go-to guy in the North Caucasus, Doku Umarov, appears to be dead. Moreover, Russia's "ring of steel" is quite effective. But not everybody is happy with the Russian security operation:

U.S. feeling shut out of Russian security operation at Sochi

U.S. intelligence officials are frustrated that the Russian government is withholding information about threats to Olympic venues coming from inside Russia, several lawmakers said during talk shows Sunday.

"We aren't getting the kind of cooperation that we'd like from the Russians in terms of their internal threats," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

Georgia Wants NATO Membership, More War

The Russians are probably wondering why the Americans ask for more information about Russia's internal threats, despite being very well informed regarding these threats. In light of the intensifying U.S.-Russia Cold War, Moscow's reluctance to share information is hardly surprising. After all, Washington is currently trying to install a puppet regime in Ukraine and expediting Georgia's integration into NATO:

U.S. to finance Georgia’s inclusion into NATO Response Force

Georgia's inclusion into the NATO Response Force (NRF) will be financed by the United States, Georgian Defence Minister Irakli Alasania said on Feb. 12 at a joint press conference with the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Knud Bartels.

It has already been decided that Georgia will become a part of NRF starting from 2015 and the sponsor state has also been selected which will be the United States, the minister said.

American taxpayers will be delighted to hear the good news. Not only is their money being used to expand a redundant military alliance but they can also look forward to financing more military spending in the future. The purpose of the NATO Response Force (NRF) is to deploy air, naval and infantry ground forces anywhere in the world most likely under the guise of fighting "al-Qaeda" or some other pseudo-gang. NATO's last mission against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which succeeded only in ramping up the opium production, offers a prime example of what this will look like. In order to get some of the military equipment out of Afghanistan after Operation Enduring Freedom's "success", the U.S.-led military alliance counts on Georgia's assistance as well:

NATO to discuss use of Georgian territory for Afghanistan withdrawal

A delegation of the NATO Military Committee led by Knud Bartels and Georgia’s top officials will discuss the use of Georgia’s transit corridor by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan at a meeting in Tbilisi on February 12.

Tbilisi is willing to do almost anything for its NATO membership and wants some kind of reward at the next NATO summit in Wales in early September. After Davit Usupashvili, Georgia's parliament speaker, had already attracted attention earlier this year by demanding a Membership Action Plan (MAP), Defense Minister Irakli Alasania now also raised the issue emphasizing that it does not matter whether it will be a MAP or some "new instrument for closer integration with NATO." Tbilisi expects a lot of the accession to the military alliance. Government officials hope that this would signal strength to Georgia's breakaway territories and possibly even convince Abkhazia to reconsider its status. However, nobody in Georgia should build up false hopes. Relations with Abkhazia will not improve anytime soon, especially if the Abkhazians noticed what Nino Burjanadze recently had to say about the plans of U.S. puppet Mikheil Saakashvili in April 2008, a few months before he attacked South Ossetia at the behest of Washington:

Burjanadze claims Saakashvili planned to attack Abkhazia in 2008

A former speaker of parliament in Georgia claims that the government of then President Mikheil Saakashvili planned to attack the breakaway region Abkhazia in 2008.

Nino Burjanadze, who was one of the leaders of the Rose Revolution in 2003 and now leads the opposition party Democratic Movement, made the claim during a talk show on Imedi TV Wednesday evening.

She said government officials during Saakashvili’s government were planning to invade Sukhumi, a city in Abkhazia, in the spring of 2008. 

EU, Azerbaijan Argue About NGOs

So the Georgian government will not find many friends in Abkhazia but this is not a priority anyway. Who needs friends in Abkhazia with "friends" in Washington, Brussels and Baku?! Georgian President Margvelashvili just visited the Azerbaijani capital, where he met with Ilham Aliyev to give a new impetus to the strategic Azerbaijani-Georgian partnership. The two leaders discussed among others plans for energy diversification and Aliyev cited the BTC and BTE pipelines as perfect examples of the good relationship between the two sides. Tbilisi is by far not the only player counting on Azerbaijan as a major energy supplier. Washington and Brussels need the country in the South Caucasus in order to challenge Russia's supremacy in the European energy market. Since plans to transport Turkmen gas via Azerbaijan to Europe are not feasible, Iraqi natural gas is now eyed as an alternative:

Azerbaijan Offers Iraq Gas-Pipeline Route To Europe

Azerbaijan's foreign minister has said during a visit to Baghdad that his country is open to shipping Iraqi natural gas to Europe.

Elmar Mammadyarov said on February 10 that Iraqi authorities had already expressed an interest in shipping gas to Europe via Azerbaijan's pipeline network.

For Iraqi gas to reach Azerbaijan's pipeline network, Turkish participation is needed and Turkish officials said late last year they were interested in including Iraq in the construction of the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP).

In the meantime, the European Union is doing its best to impede the construction of Gazprom's South Stream pipeline. Although the EU and Azerbaijan work hand in glove in this regard, Brussels finds fault with the Aliyev regime. Inspired by Russia's foreign agent law, there have been some changes in Azerbaijan's legislation regarding NGOs. For example, foreigners who want to establish a non-governmental organization in Azerbaijan are now required to appoint an Azerbaijani citizen as deputy chairman. This does not go down well with George Soros and the EU:

EU concern over Azerbaijan NGO amendments

The EU is concerned about changes to the laws governing non-governmental organisations in Azerbaijan.

High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, and Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule said in a February 12 statement that they “are concerned by recent amendments to NGO legislation in Azerbaijan restricting the environment for an independent and critical civil society, especially in the field of human rights and democracy.”

Baku is not impressed with the criticism coming from Brussels and denounced the political pressure. Aliyev knows very well that all these foreign-funded NGOs, which highlight the horrific human rights situation and pervasive corruption in the country, are used to put him under pressure and could even instigate a color revolution if the United States deems regime change necessary. But he will be careful not to overplay his hand and his masters in Washington will not immediately replace an otherwise very reliable puppet because of this misconduct. After all, the Aliyev regime helped to establish Azerbaijan as a major oil and gas supplier and as a regional base for jihadi operations. Speaking of which, five more Azerbaijani terrorists were killed in Syria this week. While some jihadi mercenaries from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) know at least that they are working for the House of Saud, other ISIS fighters have absolutely no clue whose interests they are serving [emphasis mine]:

New videos of Azerbaijanis fighting in Syria - VİDEO

APA has obtained the videos from the websites owned by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant armed group. The video shows Azerbaijani fighters seizing oil mine controlled by Free Syrian Army. The operations carried out by Iraq Sham State armed group are led by Azerbaijani introduced as Khattab Al Azeri.

Khattab Al Azeri accuses those fighting under Free Syrian Army of serving the US and Saudi Arabia.

“They have gone the wrong way, obeyed to the US and Saudi Arabia. There is no difference between Saudi King and Bashar al-Assad. Maybe Bashar al-Assad is even better than Saudi King,” he says.

ETIM Threatens Kyrgyzstan

With reports about the activities of foreign terrorists in Syria increasing steadily, it is doubtful whether there are any Syrians left among the "Syrian rebels", which consist, for example, of several jihadists from Central Asia. The 'stans are trying to contain the problem, so far to no avail. Although the Kyrgyz authorities busted a few terrorist recruiters earlier this year, Bishkek is still concerned about the situation and demonstrated this at the beginning of this week by acknowledging for the first time the deaths of Kyrgyz citizens in Syria:

Kyrgyz deaths in Syria raise concern about extremists' recruiting tactics 

With the confirmation of five Kyrgyz dying in Syria, Bishkek calls for greater effort to keep youth from believing the terrorists' false message of conflict being a jihadi cause.

The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (GKNB) is sounding a call for more-vigorous efforts to keep youth out of the grip of extremists in light of the on-going conflict in Syria.

The critical socioeconomic conditions in Kyrgyzstan provide a perfect breeding ground for terrorist recruitment and organizations like Hizb ut-Tahrir exploit this. According to recent reports, Hizb ut-Tharir is currently very active in Issyk-Kul province, which borders Xinjiang and made headlines a few weeks ago, when a group of Uyghur intruders created some chaos in the province. Washington's favorite anti-Chinese terrorist group has now addressed the incident and threatened to retaliate:

Kyrgyzstan Launches Probe Into Alleged Threat By Uyghur Separatists

Kyrgyz authorities have launched an investigation into a death threat allegedly sent by Uyghur separatists in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang.

The message -- written in Russian and English -- said that Kyrgyz border guards would be attacked soon for the killing of 11 Uyghurs earlier this year.
The message was signed with an acronym (ETIM) for the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

Since "East Turkestan's liberation" is not making any progress and Kyrgyzstan offers an easier target, the ETIM might consider conducting more operations in Central Asia. The last attacks in Xinjiang all took place in Aksu prefecture, which borders Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul province, and did not end well for the Uyghur terrorists. The same is true of the latest terrorist attack this week: 

11 terrorists dead in Xinjiang attack

Eight terrorists were killed by police and three others by their own suicide devices during a terrorist attack Friday afternoon in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, police said.

Two civilians and two police officers were injured in the attack in Wushi county of Aksu Prefecture. One suspect was captured, police said.

The terrorists, riding motorbikes and cars, attacked a team of police on patrol at around 4 p.m.

While there is no end in sight to the destabilization campaign in China's far west, Beijing is convinced that the new anti-terror strategy will be successful in the long term and eventually make it more difficult for the United States and its allies to inflame tensions in Xinjiang:

China to spend extra $10 billion in restive Xinjiang this year 

The Chinese government will pump 61.66 billion yuan ($10.17 billion) in extra funds into the restive far western region of Xinjiang this year to improve housing and employment, state media said on Wednesday.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: January 26, 2014

Uyghurs & Gülenists in Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang's Never-Ending Struggle, Qatar-IMU Target Tajikistan & More

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Western mainstream media reporting about China's fight against the "liberation of East Turkestan" follows some basic rules, one of which is to highlight the oppression of the Uyghur population at any given opportunity. So Western media outlets widely covered the arrest of Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti. European and American officials, led by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, voiced their concern and demanded an explanation. The Chinese government, not amused by all this hype, decided to set the record straight and explained why the West's new darling had been detained [emphasis mine]:

Leave no chance for malicious preaching

The nearly live coverage shows a particularly close link between Tohti and the West.

Indeed, Tohti is no ordinary Joe. Closely watched by the World Uyghur Congress, he is known to have often given aggressive lectures in class. He founded the Uighur Online website in 2006, which was very active around the riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2009, which left nearly 200 people dead.

The authorities must resolutely crack down on the terrorists, as well as the "brains" behind them. Without the brains, the terrorists will be like a clueless mob.

Xinjiang's Never-Ending Struggle

Beijing knows of course that the real "brains" behind the terrorists are to be found in Washington but it is arguably more difficult to put them behind bars. According to Xinjiang's police, Tohti engaged in separatist activities and "colluded with overseas East Turkistan separatist forces", which include among others the NED-funded World Uyghur Congress. While Western media reported extensively about the arrest of the Uyghur economics professor, another incident involving the Turkic ethnic group received considerably less coverage, although the information came from the West's preferred source, CIA propaganda project Radio Free Asia (RFA):

Uyghur Attack on Police Station Leaves Three Dead, Two Injured

Chinese authorities have shot dead three Uyghurs who attacked a police station in northwestern China’s restive Xinjiang region, officials said Wednesday, calling the attack an act of “separatism.”

The assault on the Yengieriq town police station in Aksu prefecture’s Awat county is the latest in a string of raids by Uyghurs who exile rights groups say could be retaliating for discrimination by Chinese authorities against the ethnic minority group.

As usual, Radio Free Asia portrays the attack as inevitable consequence of government discrimination against the Uyghur population. Other media outlets had apparently more qualms about publishing the same anti-Chinese propaganda and ignored the story. But with terrorist attacks in Xinjiang occurring more frequently, Western mainstream media will have a hard time ignoring the incidents and resort to RFA-style reporting. The assault on the Yengieriq town police station was not the only terrorist attack in Aksu prefecture this week:

12 terrorists killed in Xinjiang attack

Police in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Friday shot dead six attackers, while another six died in an explosion, local authorities revealed Saturday.

Two explosions took place in a beauty salon and a grocery market in Xinhe county, Aksu prefecture at around 6:40 pm Friday. A group of terrorist suspects threw explosives at police, who were making arrests, and police opened fire and gunned down six, the Xinjiang government announced on its official website

Six other suspects were killed later in an explosion they set off themselves in their vehicle when they were surrounded by police, according to local authorities.

Police also detained five terrorist suspects and seized some explosive devices. So until China's new anti-terror strategy yields any results, the Chinese authorities have their work cut out and it was a wise decision to double Xinjiang's anti-terrorism budget. After all, the stability of the autonomous region is crucial for China's economic development. Beijing just announced a record high in crude oil imports from Kazakhstan via the Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline, which runs to Xinjiang, and the success of the Silk Road economic belt depends of course on Xinjiang's stability:

Cargo train linking Central Asia, east China begins operation 

A cargo train linking east China and five central Asian countries started operation on Monday amid hopes that it will boost development of the Silk Road economic belt that spans the Eurasian continent.

The train will travel 4,600 kilometers from Yiwu city of Zhejiang Province, pass through Alataw Pass in far west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and arrive in the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan. The line will then branch off to reach cities in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

Uyghurs, Gülenists in Kyrgyzstan

Other countries in the region share Beijing's interests in this regard. This week, the Kyrgyz government was reminded that Uyghur terrorists could also become a problem for the neighboring 'stans. One day after the violence in Xinjiang's Aksu prefecture started with the attack on the police station, a group of Uyghurs, who had probably crossed the border from the Chinese side, rocked the boat in Kyrgyzstan's adjacent Issyk-Kul province. The intruders broke into the hunters' point in Pikertyk and killed the head of the hunters' society of Issyk-Kul province, Alexander Barykin, allegedly shouting 'Allahu Akhbar' before they were eventually eliminated by Kyrgyz security forces:

11 militants killed by Kyrgyz troops near border with China

Kyrgyzstan’s border service says eleven militants have been killed by Kyrgyz troops near the border with China.

The border service chief said the militants, carrying hunting rifles and knives, were spotted in Pikertyk, some 40 kilometers from the border by a park ranger. The ranger was then brutally killed. Border guards located and surrounded the militants, but a gunfight ensued after they refused to surrender. All 11 gunmen were killed.

Initially there was some speculation whether the criminals were really Uyghur extremists or, for example, illegal poachers hunting for trophies like Marco Polo sheep. However, representatives of the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan identified the dead men as ethnic Uyghurs and according to the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's border service, items found in their possession indicate that they were Uyghur separatists. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry immediately issued a statement reaffirming its active cooperation with Beijing in the fight against "the three evil forces" and the incident was certainly discussed during the latest Kyrgyz-Chinese meeting:

China to provide military-technical assistance to Kyrgyzstan

Minister of Defense Taalaibek Omuraliev met with delegation of the National Liberation Army of China led by deputy chairman of Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense of China Tzy Govei.

During the meeting, Minister of Defense of Kyrgyzstan thanked the Chinese side for the rendered military- technical assistance and confirmed the intention of the Ministry of Defense of the Kyrgyz Republic to boost military cooperation with China.

Since China prefers stable Central Asian neighbors, Kyrgyzstan's weak military is being supported with some Chinese military aid. But the delegation of the People's Liberation Army was not the only noteworthy delegation visiting Bishkek this week:

Kyrgyz Minister of Economy and delegation of Turkic - American Alliance discussed trade and economic cooperation

Economy Minister of Kyrgyzstan Temir Sariev met with an official delegation of Turkic - American Alliance, where the issues of trade and economic cooperation were discussed.

According to the press service of the Ministry of Economy of the KR, the delegation included President of Turkic - American alliance Faruk Taban and president of the Turkish- American Federation of Midwest USA Suleiman Turhan.

The Turkic-American Alliance (TAA) (formerly Assembly of Turkic American Federations) is a leading Turkish-American umbrella organization with more than 200 member organizations and part of CIA puppet Fethullah Gülen's vast network. Right now, the same shady network is trying to topple Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, while Morton Abramowitz, one of Gülen's main CIA handlers, and fellow Zionist operatives are urging the Obama Administration to expedite the proceedings. Kyrgyz officials should know from personal experience that Gülen-affiliated organizations and institutions cannot be trusted [emphasis mine]:

One of the attending Gulen school owners owned and operated 18 schools for Gulen in Uzbekistan. The CIA operation disguised under ‘Teaching English’ at these 18 schools in Uzbekistan consisted of 70 CIA operatives, operating under a project named ‘Friendship Bridge’ (Operation Code Name). The operatives also submitted reports to a certain arm of the Pentagon.

The same operation (name not mentioned) had 60 American-CIA operatives as English teachers in Kyrgyzstan; again carrying US Diplomatic Passports.

Qatar, IMU Target Tajikistan

But some people are apparently either not willing to learn from their mistakes or more interested in money. Speaking of which, Tajikistan still wants to strengthen its ties with the House of Thani despite the latter's role in facilitating the Islamization of the Central Asian country. Dushanbe and Doha are expected to sign a security cooperation agreement and of course the Qatari regime offers to help with education as well [emphasis mine]:

Tajikistan, Qatar to boost bilateral education cooperation

Tajik Minister of Education and Science Nouriddin Saidov yesterday met here with Qatari Ambassador to Tajikistan Ali bin Mubarak Saeed Al-Muhanadi.

According to the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) press center, the sides discussed issues related to expansion of bilateral education cooperation between the two countries.

Qatari ambassador reportedly noted that Tajik students could study at prestigious Qatari universities in Doha.

After Emomalii Rahmon had criticized a few years ago that foreign religious schools are indoctrinating Tajik students, the Tajik authorities have urged parents to bring their children back home. So it will be interesting to see how Dushanbe reacts to this proposal. Considering Qatar's tack record in recruiting fighters for jihad in Syria and Rahmon's fear of battle-tested terrorists continuing their activities in Tajikistan, the decision ought to be easy:

Five Tajiks Sentenced For Fighting In Syria

Tajikistan's Supreme Court has sentenced five of the country's citizens to around two years in jail for fighting on the side of antigovernment forces in Syria.

Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security said on December 24 that the five were students at the Syrian International University who decided to join Syrian rebel forces.

All five were detained in October when they returned to Tajikistan.

The presence of several Tajik fighters among the al-Qaeda mercenaries of the NATO-GCC-Israel axis is nothing new but they are now getting younger and younger. Tajikistan's secular government tries to curb the influence of religion on the youth by banning minors from mosques. Video cameras have been installed in all Friday and central mosques across the country to enforce the controversial law. However, if the Tajik authorities continue to cooperate with the House of Thani in the field of education, they will need more video cameras. During the 27th International Islamic Unity Conference last weekend in Tehran, the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP) warned against extremists replacing moderate forces in the Muslim world. It is unclear whether he was alluding to Qatar's interest in Tajik education or the situation in southern Tajikistan:

Islamic Extremists Gain Ground in Tajik South

The ease with which Islamic radical groups in Tajikistan are recruiting new members indicates that the policy of arresting as many suspects as possible is not working, local analysts say.

Police in the south of Tajikistan say they are seeing a rise in recruitment by banned groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Jamaat Ansarullah.

Jamaat Ansarullah is a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and both groups made headlines when they tried to disrupt the sham elections in Tajikistan. The IMU is the Central Asian version of NATOGCC's various al-Qaeda brigades and has already singled out China as its "number one enemy". Journalist, author and ex-militant Ahmed Rashid, who previously highlighted the success of the IMU in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province, is apparently convinced that the terrorist group has a great future ahead of it [emphasis mine]:

Central Asian states must unite to halt the spread of jihadism

Fears for the stability of central Asia have increased, with reports that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is establishing bases along the Afghan border. With its allies, which include al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it is preparing to inject more fighters into the country once the Americans leave. Pakistani militants keep the IMU generously supplied with arms, money and recruits.

The group already has bases around the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. However, developments in Badakhshan province in the country’s northeast – separated from Tajikistan only by the narrow Panj river – now point to an even greater threat to security in the region. Hundreds of IMU are trying to occupy several districts in Badakhshan, a vast area in the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. From here the tip of southern Tajikistan, Pakistan’s northwestern border and eastern Afghanistan are all within striking distance. The next step would be for militants to secure the entire northeastern corridor of Afghanistan, which would provide a major operational base.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round-Up: December 22, 2013

New Silk Road: Railways, Pipelines & Terrorism, Russia's Response to U.S. Missile Defense Shield  & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

As discussed two weeks ago, Russia reacts to NATO's relentless expansion and Cold War-style military exercises by deploying more missile systems near its threatened borders. This week, the first division of Iskander-M missiles was delivered to Russia's Southern Military District but the reported deployment of the same ballistic missile system in another part of Russia made the headlines and caused concern in several countries:

Russia missile deployment causes concern abroad

The United States, Poland and three Baltic states have all voiced concern at reported missile deployment by Russia in its exclave of Kaliningrad. Washington urged Moscow not to increase political tensions in the region. 

On Saturday, the German mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported that secret satellite imagery showed Iskander-M missiles stationed near the Polish border.

Russia's Response to U.S. Missile Defense Shield 

When infamous German tabloid Bild, the highest-circulation newspaper in Europe, broke the story, many were skeptical towards the claims. After all, Bild and its owner the Axel Springer AG represent first and foremost Washington's interests (both Bild's editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann and Axel Springer's CEO Mathias Döpfner are members of the Atlantik-Brücke). While a statement of the Russian Defense Ministry appeared to confirm the media reports, President Vladimir Putin stressed that such a decision had not yet been made:

Putin Says No Iskanders Deployed in Kaliningrad

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia has not deployed Iskander tactical nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad, an exclave wedged between NATO members Lithuania and Poland.

“We have made no such decision,” Putin said at a marathon annual press conference.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in an ambiguously worded statement that Iskander missiles had been stationed in Russia’s Western Military District, which includes Kaliningrad as well as much of the European part of Russia.

Meanwhile, Bild insists on its report and claims not only that two missile brigades with 12 Iskander-M missile systems each have already been deployed in Kaliningrad but that the Kremlin plans to reinforce Russia's borders with hundreds of Iskander missiles. Whatever the case may be, this is of course only a reasonable reaction to Washington's missile "defense" system in Europe, as Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu lately emphasized: 

Russia has answer to deployment of US missile defense in Europe

Russia has what to react to the deployment of U.S. missile defence in Europe, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday.

The Defense Ministry has the right to deploy weapons in any part of Russia. “Recently a big deal has been made that we deployed Iskander tactical ballistic missiles in the wrong area. We’re deploying our missiles where we want,” the defense minister said.

In the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin repeatedly urged Washington to scrap the missile "defense" system. Lavrov exposed the rhetoric of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by reminding everyone that "the stated reason for the construction of the defense shield will no longer apply" if the Iran deal is a success. But Washington is not ashamed of insisting on its specious argument and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel once again tried to assure the Kremlin of NATO's good intentions:

US to deploy ABM systems in Europe despite P5+1 deal with Iran

The US will deploy its missile defense system in Europe despite progress in Iran nuclear talks, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. The news came as Russia confirmed the deployment of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad region, bordering the EU.

Hagel assured his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoigu, that “NATO missile defense efforts pose no threat to Russia and urged that both sides continue consultations on future missile plans in Europe,” the Pentagon said.

EU Prefers Azerbaijani over Russian Gas

In Russia nobody will be fooled by such comments. Relations between Moscow and Washington remain tense. The same is true of Moscow-Brussels relations. Besides struggling over Ukraine, the European Union and Russia continue to quarrel about pipelines. Despite Serbia's initial opposition to a renegotiation of the South Stream pipeline project, the European Union will now lead new talks with Russian energy giant Gazprom about the gas pipeline:

EU to renegotiate South Stream gas pipeline with Russia

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger is to visit Moscow next month to renegotiate South Stream gas pipeline deals on behalf of several member states, he said Thursday. The announcement comes days after the European Commission told the countries through which the pipeline is to pass that the deals they had struck with Russia are in violation of EU law.

"We have been given a mandate by the member states to negotiate in their name with the Russian partners," Oettinger said at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels.

The countries he is to negotiate on behalf of are Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Greece and non-EU member Serbia, which applies EU laws in its energy sector, Oettinger said.

Coincidentally, EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger is also one of the strongest advocates of the Southern Gas Corridor, the European Commission's initiative aimed at reducing Europe's dependence on Russian gas. Oettinger still dreams of building a gas pipeline, which could seriously challenge South Stream, but for now he has to put up with a smaller project. Anyhow, Europe can look forward to a new gas supply via a route that avoids Russian territory:

Final Deal Signed To Send Azerbaijani Gas To Europe

The consortium developing Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz-2 natural-gas project has signed a final investment agreement, paving the way for the first deliveries to Europe.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said deals signed on December 17 in Baku include an investment decision on the Shah Deniz-2 offshore oil and gas fields and the Trans-Anatolian (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic (TAP) gas pipelines -- projects worth at least $35 billion.

However, not everybody is equally convinced of the Shah Deniz-2 project. Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil surprisingly sold 10 percent of its 25.5 percent stake in the project (SOCAR purchased 6.7 percent and BP the remaining 2.3 percent of the Statoil stake). And while Turkey made the decision to increase its stake in the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline, Statoil and supermajor Total pulled out altogether due to concerns about the soaring costs of the project:

Total and Statoil pull out of Tanap gas pipe deal

Statoil and Total have decided not to exercise their option to acquire stakes in the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline, or
Tanap, according to people familiar with the matter. Statoil was to have taken a 12 per cent interest and Total 5 per cent.

But Tanap’s estimated construction costs have soared from $7.5bn to about $12bn, increasing the financial risks to the partners. The pipeline was to have started delivering gas to the Turkish market by 2018 and to Europe by 2019, but analysts believe that timetable could slip.

Despite their decision to withdraw from Tanap, Statoil and Total will retain their interests in TAP.

Nevertheless, there is still a lot of money to be made with Azerbaijani oil and gas. The only question is who will benefit from the abundant energy resources?! Corruption has always been a major problem in Azerbaijan and the Aliyev regime profits handsomely from the shady dealings. According to new report by the Soros-funded watchdog group Global Witness, lots of money disappears into a black hole:

Are Azerbaijani Energy Dealings Transparent and Opaque at the Same Time? 

“Privately owned companies are making millions handling oil that belongs to the Azerbaijani people, yet the identity of their owners is hidden, and it is not clear why they are involved,” the report states.

“The lack of transparency highlights gaps in the EITI, as it shows that countries can comply with its rules, while large deals are being struck with very little transparency,” the report continued. “It is important for Europe that Azerbaijan keeps the oil and gas flowing and maintains transparent and well-run energy industry. Yet this briefing shows that much of the oil business in Azerbaijan remains opaque.”

In the end, Brussels is more concerned about the steady flow of oil and gas than transparency. Moreover, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and other foreign officials have trouble criticizing the rampant corruption and human rights abuses in the former Soviet state because they are being treated very well by the Aliyev regime:

Plush hotels and caviar diplomacy: how Azerbaijan's elite wooed MPs

It operates from an exclusive Mayfair address and throws lavish parties for politicians of all parties. Ostensibly an independent trade body, the European
Azerbaijan Society (Teas) regularly takes MPs, MEPs and government officials on trips to the former Soviet state, where they are put up in luxury hotels.

On previous trips, members of the Council of Europe visiting the capital, Baku, are among those to have been treated royally. According to one insider: "These are real vacations and there are many expensive gifts. Gifts are mostly expensive silk carpets, gold and silver items, drinks, caviar and money. In Baku, a common gift is 2kg of caviar."

New Silk Road: Railways, Pipelines & Terrorism

With deals on the Trans-Anatolian (TANAP) and Trans Adriatic (TAP) gas pipelines sealed, Baku and Ankara look forward to eventually launching the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which is scheduled for completion by 2014 after being delayed several times. The 826-kilometer railway will be able to transport 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of freight at the first stage and is seen as an important project for the revival of the Silk Road:

Trans -Eurasian Corridor: Turkey and Azerbaijan lead revival of modern Silk ‘Rail’ Road

With the railway project, continuous transport between London and Beijing would be available. A train that will depart from London would pass through the Marmaray and then follow Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and through the Caspian Sea would reach Beijing, experts said.

“Chinese goods, for example, which would depart from the northwest of the country, will arrive to Europe in 12 days. On the other hand, if China would prefer to use the Suez Canal or the sea road, the duration of the voyage would take 45 days and 23,000 kilometres,” he said.

Hillary Clinton's 'New Silk Road' vision fell on deaf ears in Washington but not in Beijing. China has been very successful in reviving the ancient trade route and Xi Jinping's now famous Central Asia tour was instrumental in implementing Beijing's plans for a New Silk Road. The Chinese President secured among others more gas supplies from Turkmenistan, requiring the construction of a new branch line for the Central Asia-China gas pipeline, which will also include Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan:

Kyrgyzstan, China sign agreement on gas pipeline from Turkmenistan

Kyrgyzstan and China have signed an agreement on construction of a gas pipeline crossing from Turkmenistan via Kyrgyzstan to China, the regional media reported on Dec.18 citing a statement by President of the Kyrgyz Republic Almazbek Atambayev.

In September 2013 it was reported that President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was in Ashgabat on a state visit, came to an agreement on the fourth direction of the trans-national Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline along the route Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan-China.

Beijing's only problem is that the Central Asia-China gas pipeline as well as other pipelines, power lines and transport networks runs through the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Since Xinjiang plays a decisive role in the New Great Game, the autonomous region is being targeted by Washington in an ongoing destabilization campaign:

Attack on Police in Western China Kills 16, Tianshan Reports

Sixteen people were killed when rioters attacked police as they were detaining suspects in China’s restive northwest province of Xinjiang, according to a news portal controlled by the local government.

Two police and 14 rioters were killed, the article on said without citing anyone. Two suspects were detained in the attack, which occurred in Shufu county of Xinjiang’s Kashgar region, according to the article.

In connection with the incident, local police detained six suspects who are believed to have formed a "violent terrorist gang" with the 14 killed rioters. In the meantime, security forces in neighboring Kyrgyzstan had to deal with a supposedly nonviolent terrorist gang. One week after Russian police cracked down on Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) in the Republic of Dagestan, resulting among others in the arrest of one Kyrgyz HT member, their Kyrgyz counterparts did the same:

Kyrgyzstan arrests 8 members of Hizb ut-Tahrir

Eight members of international Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir have been detained in southern Kyrgyzstan, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

 "Investigative and search operations have resulted in the exposure of an organized extremist religious group that pursued its activities in the regions of Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken and the city of Osh," the ministry said in a statement.

Bishkek Struggles in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Predictably, all detained Hizb ut-Tahrir members conducted their activities in southern Kyrgyzstan. After all, the "conveyor belt for terrorists" is involved in recruiting young men from this region for jihad in Syria. At the beginning of this year, reports started emerging about Kyrgyz youth who left the country in order to join the "Syrian rebels":

Kyrgyzstan: Local roots of global jihad

However, one key fact is missing from virtually all reports: while it is openly acknowledged that these youths originate from the south, nowhere is it mentioned that most of the Kyrgyz nationals who are now fighting or have previously fought in Syria belong to the country's Uzbek minority.

Young Uzbeks are still hostile towards the Kyrgyz community because of the violent clashes in 2010, which left several hundred people dead, most of them Uzbeks. Due to social tensions and poverty, organizations like Hizb ut-Tahrir do not have a hard time recruiting new terrorists in southern Kyrgyzstan:

"I" is a member of Hizb al-Tahrir (HT), a party banned in all Central Asian republics. I meet him in a car on the side of a little-trafficked road. "Families get $10,000 when their sons go to fight jihad in Syria. Jihad doesn't come for free. The fighter also gets money and, if he dies, the family receives compensation for his martyrdom."

He adds that many youngsters go to fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but since 2012 Syria has also become a top spot. Many join Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to al-Qaeda, and are recruited by people from da'wa organizations who go door to door in poor neighborhoods in places like Aravan, Naukat, Kara-Suu and Nariman.

The interviewed HT member also stressed that Uzbek youth travel to Syria to train for a future confrontation with the Kyrgyz. Although Hizb ut-Tahrir publicly denies any participation in the recruitment, we should take this protestation of innocence with a grain of salt:

"R" instead tells me that three HT members tried to enlist him to fight in Syria in September this year. Apparently, the three men claimed to him that behind them were two rich Uzbek businessmen who were ready to shoulder all the expenses. He continues that HT affiliates visit local mosques at prayer time and during religious festivals: this way, they find out who are the most pious Muslims and those who are most in need in the community.

In addition to terrorist recruitment, social tensions and poverty, the Kyrgyz government faces another major problem in southern Kyrgyzstan:

Kyrgyzstan: Alliance from Restive South Creates Headache for Bishkek

Two parties with their roots in Kyrgyzstan's troubled south have announced a political alliance that could create a headache for Bishkek as it struggles to stamp its authority over southern regions.

The Unity of Peoples party led by Melis Myrzakmatov, the combative former mayor of Kyrgyzstan's second largest city, Osh, joined forces with the Progress party of Bakyt Torobayev, whose political stronghold is in the neighboring Jalal-Abad Region, on December 7, Kloop reported.

Myrzakmatov was fired as mayor of Osh just three days after he joined some 3.000 demonstrators in his city calling for the release of his ally, opposition politician Akhmatbek Keldibekov, who had been arrested on corruption charges.

Kyrgyz police clashed with supporters of Keldibekov when the demonstrators attempted to storm a government building during the rally. Bishkek increasingly struggles to assert its authority over the country's south but domestic problems are not the only challenges for the Kyrgyz government:

Kyrgyz president fears war in the south

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan came close to all-out open interstate conflict in June 2010, when ethnic violence broke out between Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan. Ongoing political upheaval in the Kyrgyz republic over the years also weakened state institutions, creating a power vacuum throughout the country; ethnic strife in the south only intensified the breakdown of the Kyrgyz state. 

So as Washington is about to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan face yet another year of negative politics over unsettled issues. In the meantime, reports of sporadic firefights on both sides of the fence leave less optimism for better prospects of cooperation between the two. Ultimately, in the absence of mutual coordination, stability in the Ferghana Valley is unsustainable.

In anticipation of further conflicts in the region, the Kyrgyz authorities decided to reinforce the borders of Batken Province, which is bounded on the northeast by Uzbekistan and lies partially within the Fergana Valley:

Kyrgyz strengthen southern border

Kyrgyzstan is building better border fences and better equipping border check-points in Batken Oblast in the country's south, State Border Service said in a December 12 statement.

Additionally, money will be invested in improving living conditions for border guards and their families living in the distant regions.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

The New Great Game Round Up- December 1, 2013

Terrorist Recruitment in the 'Stans’, Americans Leave Manas but Stay in Kyrgyzstan & Xinjiang's Universities Fight Terrorism

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

While the Tiananmen Square attack is still a main topic of conversation in China and the Chinese government is mulling new measures for its war on terror, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) deemed it necessary to remind everyone of its successful strike in the center of Beijing by releasing a new video. As usual, U.S.-based Israeli disinformation website SITE discovered the video, in which the ETIM, also known as Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), claimed responsibility for the deadly crash, describing it as a "jihadi operation by holy warriors", and threatened more attacks: [Read more...]

The New Great Game Round Up- September 22, 2013

Syrian Terror Threatens Eurasian Balkans, The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan in Great Demand & Much More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

At the beginning of this week, a series of terror attacks shook Russia's North Caucasus and proved that President Vladimir Putin's concerns about security in this region are definitely justified:

3 police dead, 6 wounded in suicide bombing, attempted attacks in Russia’s south

A suicide attacker set off a powerful bomb near a police station in Russia’s Chechen Republic, killing three officers. His possible accomplice injured two policemen in neighboring Ingushetia while a third one wearing a suicide vest was detained.

[Read more...]

The New Great Game Round Up- July 28, 2013

U.S. Spy Network in Kyrgyzstan, NATO's Cold War Revival, Dagestan Dangerous for Rabbis, SCO & WTO Expansion & More

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Since Russia and China will be confronted with a terror campaign at their doorsteps in the near future, joint efforts to prepare for this situation are underway:

Chinese soldiers leave for anti-terror drills in Russia

The drill involves 1,500 soldiers from both sides and will be held from next Saturday until August 15th. Over 100 pieces of equipment and military hardware, and over 20 aircraft and helicopters will take part in the manoeuvres. [Read more...]

The New Great Game Round Up- June 30, 2013

Afghan Drugs Everywhere, Russia's Problem in Dagestan, Terror in Xinjiang, TAP Beats Nabucco West & More

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Last week's round-up dealt with the power struggle in Georgia and the interesting discovery of several arms caches. After the Georgian authorities found more weapons and surveillance videos, President Saakashvili came clean a few days ago and admitted that the caches were set up on his order:

Saakashvili Comments on Arms Caches

President Saakashvili said on June 23 that arms caches, which the Interior Ministry says it found in Samegrelo region, were in fact those secret storages which he instructed to create after the August, 2008 war as part of a broader defensive plan in case of resumption of aggression against the country. [Read more...]