Archive for the ‘Uzbekistan’ Category

Pakistani Army Preparing for Major Offensive Against Militants

October 2, 2009

According to the New York Times, senior military officials in Pakistan have said that the Pakistani army is preparing to launch a major offensive operation against Taliban and other militants in South Waziristan, which has been under Taliban control for years.  Previous campaigns to dislodge the Taliban from the area have failed after the Pakistani army suffered high levels of casualties.

In the past, American officials have complained that the Pakistani government has not done enough to take on Taliban and Al Qaeda elements that use Pakistan as a base from which to launch attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.  Some members of the security forces in Pakistan maintain ties with Taliban leaders for ideological and strategic reasons. 

Pakistani military leaders have traditionally focused on rival India and considered the Taliban to be a lesser threat deserving less attention.  Leaders in the weak civilian government have been wary of antagonizing military leaders by ordering them to make the Taliban their main priority and sustain operations that lead to a high death toll for army personnel.  But the killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the result of an airstrike by an American drone, and the subsequent disunity within the Taliban have made Pakistani commanders more confident that a new offensive will be successful and their forces will suffer fewer casualties.

If the Pakistani army manages to eliminate a large number of militants in Pakistan, it might change the calculus of the Obama administration, which is debating whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan to battle the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Haqqini network.  South Waziristan has been described as the “epicenter” of miliant forces in Pakistan, and its capture by the Pakistani army would be a major victory for the Pakistani government and the US, and it would tighten the noose around the insurgency.  However, there are still militant bases in the North-west Frontier Province and insurgents may relocate there if they lose the fight in South Waziristan, so the defeat of the Taliban in South Waziristan would not completely eliminate the threat posed by militants.

Russia Expands Presence in Central Asia

August 4, 2009

Russia is planning to increase its military presence in Kyrgyzstan, much to the chagrin of neighboring Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said the troop deployment “may lead to the strengthening of militarization and provoke varios kinds of nationalist struggles.  It could also cause the appearance of radical extemist forces, which could lead to serious destabilization across this vast region.”

The foreign ministry’s analysis is insightful, even if it is self-serving in terms of promoting Uzbekistan’s national interest in limiting Russia’s military presence near its border.  Citizens and officials in newly independent Former Soviet Union (FSU) states are sensitive about their national sovereignty and they view the Russian military as a threat to their independence.  In response to this perceived threat, those countries may increase the size of their armies and purchase more weapons abroad, which in turn could create new perceptions of threat among Central Asian nations and incease militarization in the region.

Russian expansion into Muslim countries could also foment Islamic extremism and terrorism.  This process has occured in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim Russian province where the Russian military has used heavy-handed tactics to suppress insurgents and pro-independence forces, which some Chechyns have responded to with terrorist bombings in Russia.  Russia also sustained heavy casualties during its decade-long war in Afghanistan, another Musliam nation in Central Asia, in the 1980s.  If Russia radicalizes militant forces in the region it would be detrimental to the US, which established military bases in the area to support military operations in Afghanistan following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Russia’s latest move follows a recent pattern of attempts to expand its influence in nearby countries.  Last year, Russia invaded Georgia to assist a pro-Russian separatist movement, and during the past decade it has periodically disrupted natural gas supplies to Ukraine for political purposes.  It also threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic if they allowed the US to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems on their soil.  Russia is also developing large energy projects in Central Asia, which would give it more economic and political influence there.  The Russian government recently tried to create a rapid-reaction force similar to NATO with other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Russia would naturally dominate, but the effort failed as a result of resistance from other member states.

Russia will continue to try to carve out a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  How successful their efforts will be depends on the response of targeted countries, the reaction of the international community, and political and economic conditions inside Russia.