This report from US news (Associated Press) cites Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bortnikov, who stated that there is a likelihood of ISIS or Taliban launching an invasion of Central Asia.
The presence of ISIS in Central Asia has been a matter of debate thus far. However there has been an article in the Diplomat that reported the status of ISIS in Central Asia, primarily through an Interview with Tatyana Dronzina, an expert from Sofia University in Bulgaria. It confirms influence of ISIS, large enough to motivate local youth to proceed to Middle East to join ISIS, but doesn’t confirm its presence within CAR. Tatyana states that Jihadist’s motivation seems to be social justice and a shallow sense of ideology. Interview further elucidates that though the Wahhabi strain in ISIS and the Hanafi strain of Taliban may not easily coexist.
If the statement by the Russian intel chief comes true, ISIS and Taliban can enter Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, none of whom has a border with Russia, despite being erstwhile Soviet States. However Tajikistan has a border with China. That too, with the troublesome province of Xinjiang where China is facing terrorism from ETIM. Therefore such a prospect can be worrisome to China. For the world, ISIS in the resource rich Central Asia can truly be a nightmare.
Central Asia is resource rich with very moderate security structures. Besides, their location away from sea makes access complicated. They also suffer from poor governance structures, which has causes radicalisation amongst their youth which in turn gets reported as a ‘concern’ by the very rulers who choose the ISIS theory. That is what this article suggests.
Russia has been highlighting the ISIS threat to CAR for some time now. This piece in Diplomat suggests these reports have no basis and is being done to ‘inflate’ the threat. With Russia drawn into the fray against ISIS, it is expected that it will look at the development more closely that before. The statement by the Russian Intelligence Chief requires to be viewed in that light.
A detailed analysis regarding ISIS in Central Asia was done by a senior Indian analyst P Stobdan in this piece a year ago. He traced the ISIS strains in various Central Asian states and drew out the extent of ISIS’s coverage in CAR. However with the pace at which events move in such situations, there is some merit in all concerned to re-examine the scourge of ISIS in neighbourhood.