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Ed Webb

ISIS' growing sphere of influence in Central Asia and Caucasus poses new security risks... - 0 views

  • The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, with close ties to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda has already announced its allegiance to ISIS. According to Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB), more than 300 Kazakh citizens are fighting alongside ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq and half of those are women. Poorer countries of Central Asia, such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, especially in their shared Ferghana Valley region, are said to be fertile ground for ISIS recruitment. It is estimated that the number of Chechens fighting in Syria range between 200 and 1,000, many of them veterans of previous conflicts.  Chechens are known to have a prominent role in ISIS and the group has threatened to take the fight to Russia. In September, ISIS militants directly threatened Russia.
  • Hundreds of Azerbaijanis are known to have joined the ISIS forces in Syria. On 19 November, Dogan News Agency reported the arrest of 22 foreigners on the Turkish-Syrian border town of Kilis trying to cross illegally into Syria. 18 were of Uighur origin and 4 of them citizens of Azerbaijan
Ed Webb

Are 'Water Wars' imminent in Central Asia? - Al Jazeera English - 1 views

  • The overpopulated, Israel-sized Ferghana Valley has attracted the armies of Alexander the Great, Arabs, Mongols and Russian tsars. It has also spawned some of the bloodiest conflicts in the former Soviet Union, including ethnic clashes, incursions of armed Islamists and the Uzbek government's merciless crackdown on a 2005 popular revolt.   The glaciers and snows of the Tian Shan mountains around the valley give birth to the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia's two major rivers, and turn the valley into a giant hothouse with nearly perfect conditions for farming. Border areas in nearby Xinjiang, China's troubled Muslim region, also depend on Tian Shan's glaciers for water. But between 1961 and 2012, the sky-scraping range whose name means "Heavenly Mountains" in Chinese, has lost 27 percent of its ice mass, the German Research Centre for Geosciences said last year. The annual loss amounts to up to 5.4 cubic kilometres of water a year, it said.
  • farmers here are "ready to kill each other for water," a local mirob, or community official responsible for distribution of piped water from a communal canal, told Al Jazeera. The official, who could not give his name because of his job's sensitivity, described how over the past decade farmers have increasingly resorted to quarrels and fistfights and used their connections to officials to influence the timing and duration of water allocation to their land lots. This year, there's next to nothing to irrigate the fields with. "There's been no winter this year, so we're begging God for water," farmer Rasul Azamatov told Al Jazeera
  • The Ferghana valley is a bit bigger than Israel, but lacks its proficiency in water conservation - and does not have many alternatives to farming. Cheap Chinese exports have killed local plants and factories, and the valley has become a major source of labour migration - mostly to Russia.
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  • "The root of the problem is the disintegration of the resource-sharing system the Soviet Union imposed on the region until its collapse in 1991," the International Crisis Group, a conflict studies think-tank, said in a 2014 report entitled Water Pressures in Central Asia.
  • The Ferghana Valley's problems are replicated throughout Central Asia, a landlocked region of more than 60 million people where conditions for farming are far less favourable, but tens of millions still live off land. Their problems are exacerbated by desertification, old and decrepit infrastructure and poor water management.
  • Unsurprisingly, the word "war" resurfaced when Moscow threw its weight and money to revive Soviet-era designs to build five more dams and hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan. The Kremlin pledged to finance the $3.2bn project on the Naryn River, Syr Darya's tributary, as part of its political effort to restore its foothold in Central Asia. Uzbek President Islam Karimov wasn't very subtle with his warning. "Control over water resources in the republics of Central Asia may lead to a full-scale war," he said in October.
  • These days, Kyrgyzstan is withholding water in massive upstream reservoirs releasing it according to electricity generation needs -  that is in winter - and not the interests of now-foreign farmers next door.
  • Aral is now reduced to two smaller lakes, while most of its former seabed has turned into a desert that releases tens of thousands of tons of toxic salt-dust annually.  
  • In southeastern Kazakhstan, another major body of water faces Aral's fate. The shallow, boomerang-shaped Balkhash is the world's 15th largest freshwater lake mostly fed by the Ili River that flows from China. The lake that supplies three Kazakh regions with is shrinking as China amasses Ili's waters in a dozen reservoirs.   Given the Gordian knot of regional problems, some experts think that in the coming decades, an armed conflict in the region over water seems inevitable.
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