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WASHINGTON – Just as concerns mount over the impending resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan once U.S. and allied troops leave in 2014, there is a similar urgency over the rise of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
It once was thought defunct, but alarms are being raised over its presence in northern Afghanistan and its threat to introduce militants and their drugs throughout Central Asia, Russia and Europe.
The IMU at one time was composed mostly of militants from Uzbekistan, but now it increasingly is comprised of foreign fighters who not only are of Arab background but also Chechens, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Uighurs.
Sources say that as combat troops from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization leave the equivalent of a skeleton crew of troops – perhaps up to 10,000 – in Afghanistan to conduct training, the IMU with the help of the Taliban will increase its influence throughout Central Asia.
Russia also has reason to be concerned, seeing IMU elements possibly spreading into Central Asia and linking up with Islamist militant Chechens and other elements in the Caucasus Emirates, all of whom could pose a threat to the 2014 Winter Olympics to take place in Sochi, Russia.
Sochi is located near the region in the North Caucasus of southern Russia that has come under increasing militancy from Chechnya and the neighboring Russian provinces of the predominantly Muslim population of Ingushetia and Dagestan.
For many years, Russia has had concerns about drugs from Afghanistan. It continues to be wary of drugs that come from Afghanistan along the extended route through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and through Uzbekistan. Similar routes now are being taken by the IMU to infiltrate militants throughout Central Asia and into Russia and Europe, adding further to the international flavor of such transnational Sunni Wahhabi groups as the IMU.
Like the Islamist militants in the Northern Caucasus, the IMU with its connection to the Sunni Wahhabist al-Qaida and Taliban similarly wants to establish Shariah law. Originally, the IMU was operating primarily in Uzbekistan where it established itself with attacks from Tajikistan into the fertile Fergana Valley, the gateway throughout all of Central Asia.
The concern stems from the fact that northern Afghanistan, where the IMU is concentrated, borders Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, making it easy for the IMU to take advantage of the porous borders into the region.
A combination of poverty, unemployment and the propagation of extremist ideology has contributed to the spread of the IMU. Adding to this problem is the IMU’s linkup with al-Qaida and the Haqqani network and Taliban in Pakistan.
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