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WASHINGTON – There are growing indications that Islamist militant groups have begun to coalesce in the northern part of Afghanistan to prepare to reinsert themselves into their own Central Asian countries as soon as troops from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization leave the country at the end of 2014, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Regional experts say that these Islamist groups will take advantage of the vacuum left by the departure of Western troops. These groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, are engaging in offensives with the Taliban in provinces of northern Afghanistan adjacent to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The IMU is from Uzbekistan’s Ferghana Valley and members were quite active up to 2000 but retreated into northwest Pakistan after the Taliban was removed from power following U.S. intervention in October 2001.
In recent statements issued by the Islamist militants, they have promised “future conquests in the Mawarannahr region” – namely, those areas that now comprise the Central Asian republics which include Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan in addition to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
“The strength of the Taliban’s offensives in the north suggests an effort to gain a country-wide presence ahead of the drawdown of NATO forces, so as to be in a better position to challenge Afghanistan’s national security forces once they are left to fend for themselves,” regional expert Saule Mukhametrakhimova told Asia Times.
It appears that the IMU and other Islamist groups are using the Taliban as a stepping stone into the Central Asian countries from where they originated. For its part, the Taliban appears to be more prone staying in Afghanistan.
With the Taliban expected to be in control of northern Afghanistan, these other Islamist groups then can use the area as a sanctuary from which to launch raids into the other Central Asian countries and then retreat.
“Instability in Afghanistan presents a threat to its neighbors, only because conditions for other radicals will improve,” said another regional expert.
The Sunni Islamist groups, including the IMU and Taliban, are aligned with al-Qaida, whose central headquarters remains in Pakistan – some experts believe with the knowledge of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Group, or ISI, which for years had protected Osama bin Laden until he was discovered by U.S. intelligence and killed in May 2011.
It is expected that these Islamist militants will use established drug routes that will take them from northern Afghanistan to Tajikistan and onward to Kyrgyzstan and into Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and then on to Russia where they can unite with ongoing Northern Caucasus Islamists who are threatening to hit strategic locations within that country.
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