The New Great Game Round-Up: March 23, 2014

New Poster Boy for North Caucasus Insurgency, Central Asia Struggles with IMU, NED's "Democratic Reforms" In Tajikistan & More!

The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.  

Numerous reports about the death of Russia's most wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov, have surfaced over the years only to be refuted by another video supposedly shot in the forests of the North Caucasus. Like the phony bin Laden tapes these videos are then subsequently propagated by CIA's Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, U.S.-Israeli "terrorism expert" organizations, which manage to beat al-Qaeda & Co. to the release of their own videos, and the mouthpiece of the Caucasus Emirate, the Kavkaz Center. The servers hosting the Kavkaz Center website are of course not to be found in the forests of the North Caucasus but rather in Sweden and Finland, where people like Mikael Storsjö do their bit to enable the Islamist insurgency in Russia. Since the Kavkaz Center has now finally confirmed Doku Umarov's death, this foreign-backed insurgency needs a new poster boy:

North Caucasus rebel leader Umarov dead, replaced: website

Russia's most wanted man, Doku Umarov, is dead and has been replaced as the leader of an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, a website that sympathizes with the militants said on Tuesday.

The Kavkaz Centre website issued an obituary, calling Umarov a martyr who had "given 20 years of his life to the Jihad."

It did not say when or how he had died, but the simultaneous release of a video address by a militant introducing himself as Umarov's replacement indicated it may have been some time ago.

New Poster Boy for North Caucasus Insurgency
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, saw this as a confirmation of his proclamation of Umarov's death a few weeks earlier and argued that his nemesis had been killed in a special operation without offering any proof. Israeli scholar Avrom Shmulevich on the other hand claimed a month ago that the Chechen terrorist leader had been poisoned last fall. But while the details of Umarov's end remain unclear, life goes on for terrorists in Russia and RFE/RL is already promoting the new poster boy of Washington's "freedom fighters" in the North Caucasus:

Avar Theologian Named To Succeed Umarov As Insurgency Leader

Aliasaskhab Kebekov (aka Ali Abu-Mukhammad), the "qadi" (supreme religious authority) of the Caucasus Emirate proclaimed in 2007 by then-Chechen Republic Ichkeria President Doku Umarov, says he has been chosen to succeed Umarov as Caucasus Emirate leader. In a 12-minute video clip posted on March 18, Kebekov confirms the earlier reports of Umarov's death. He further explains that a six-man "shura" (council) appointed by Umarov has selected him as Umarov's successor.

Umarov represented an older generation of terrorists who were primarily concerend with the fight for Chechen independence. His successor Kebekov was born in Dagestan and is thus the first non-Chechen to head the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus. With terrorist activities in Chechnya declining and neighboring Dagestan becoming Russia's new terror hotspot, Kebekov's appointment makes sense. Yekaterina Sokirianskaya, North Caucasus director of the infamous International Crisis Group, used this opportunity to explain the way forward:

"Overall, Dagestan rebels have always been tougher than Chechen rebels," Sokirianskaya said. "It will be a more battle ready, more ruthless cell, even more integrate into the global jihad."

So the Russians have to expect more horrific terrorist attacks similar to the December 2013 Volgograd bombings, which were carried out by the "Vilayet of Dagestan", the Dagestani branch of the Caucasus Emirate, where Kebekov started his jihadi career as "qadi" of the "Mountain Sector". But the new leader of the Caucasus Emirate and his minions are of course dependent on outside assistance and so the Russian authorities try to stem the flow of weapons to the North Caucasus: 

Russia Uncovers Arms Smuggling Route Through Ukraine

Agents at a Ukrainian-Russian land border crossing detained several of the smugglers, who had in their possession pistols made by Desert Eagle, Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer and others.

“Information was received about the procurement of a significant number of handguns from a member country of the EU, which were delivered to the territory of Ukraine,” the agency said in a statement.

“From there, the weapons were hidden in recessed areas in cars and shipped to regions in the North Caucasus,” the statement added.

Simultaneously, Russia's FSB detained two other members of the criminal group in the North Caucasus, where they were caught red-handed in an attempt to sell some of the smuggled weapons. This operation was an elegant way to get back at the European Union in the ongoing disput about Ukraine. The Kremlin is obviously annoyed with Washington's lackeys in Brussels, who are coming up with one stupid idea after another to punish Russia. The latest masterstroke is to abandon Gazprom's South Stream pipeline project:  

UPDATE 1-Future of South Stream pipeline "gloomy" - Eni CEO

The future of the South Stream pipeline project to carry Russian gas to Europe has been put in question by the escalating dispute over Ukraine, the chief executive of Italian oil major Eni said on Thursday.

The future of the pipeline is "somewhat gloomy", Paolo Scaroni said during a parliamentary hearing in Rome.

"It will put into question the many authorisations that European countries must give to complete the project," Scaroni said.

This would be neither the first nor the last time the EU acts against its own interests in order to please the United States. But besides rumors that the project is "dead", there are no definite actions so far and the involved companies continue with their work.

Turkmenistan Boosts Defense Against Taliban

Russia had to take a lot of criticism from the so-called "international community" for the "invasion" of Crimea and the debate about the legality of the Crimean referendum will not end anytime soon. However, some governments have the guts to stand up to the United States and endorse the Crimean referendum. To the great displeasure of Washington, Kabul also joined this club yesterday, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a congressional delegation that Afghanistan respects Crimea's decision to join Russia. Karzai's support for Moscow can be attributed to his new favorite hobby of getting on Obama's nerves as well as to Russian investments in Afghanistan:

As U.S. war ends, Russia returns to Afghanistan with series of investment projects

As the U.S.-led war winds down and Russia reasserts itself in Ukraine and the Middle East, Moscow is also ramping up its investment in Afghanistan. It is rebuilding the relics of the Soviet occupation and promoting its own political and cultural prowess.

“You see Russia’s interest in Afghanistan rising. It’s visible,” said Stepan Anikeev, the spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Kabul. “We want to enlarge our role in the region. It’s not only for Afghanistan, but for our own goals.”

The Russian government has compiled a list of 140 Soviet-era projects that it would like to rehabilitate, according to the embassy. The Kabul Housebuilding Factory, the country’s largest manufacturing facility, was the first to receive assistance last fall: $25 million in new equipment.

In the run-up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan, the "success" of Operation Enduring Freedom is again being highlighted by a dramatic rise in violence. This week, the widely covered attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul and a suicide bombing in the capital of Faryab Province, resulting in the death of at least 17 civilians, shocked the country. Faryab, one of the remotest northern provinces, experienced recently a sharp increase in terrorist activites. This causes concern in neighboring Turkmenistan, which relies among others on local village militias to protect the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border:

Turkmens in Afghanistan bar Taliban from crossing border

Ethnic Turkmens in northern Afghanistan are taking up arms to protect Turkmenistan from the Taliban.

Residents of Karkin, Faryab Province, stand ready to defend their homes and protect the border with Turkmenistan from encroachment by Taliban fighters, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)'s Turkmen service reported March 11.

The Karkin men are taking up arms to address the situation brought about by the emergence of Taliban militants in the region, Gurbandurdy, a former insurgent field commander who fought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989), told RFE/RL.

In return for the protection of the border, the Turkmen government has pledged to help in reinforcing the riverbank on the Afghan side of the Amu-Darya, the river that separates Afghanistan from Turkmenistan in this area. If the situation deteriorates further, the Turkmen authorities will certainly consider providing more assistance to Gurbandurdy and his men. After at least three Turkmen border guards were killed a few weeks ago supposedly by Taliban fighters, Turkmenistan's inexperienced military, which is even by Central Asian standards poorly maintained and funded, might be called into action anytime soon:

After Afghan Border Violence, Turkmenistan Reportedly Calls Up Reservists

Turkmenistan has called up military reservists to train on its border with Afghanistan following reports of recent skirmishes with Afghanistan-based militants.

On March 18 the Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) service reported that Turkmen reservists were being summoned to military enlistment offices to "undergo retraining" near Afghanistan. "In particular, several tens of people have been sent to Serhetabad (formerly Kushka) in the country's south in the past few weeks," ATN said, citing "reliable sources.” The soldiers are being housed in separate barracks without leave and are subject to strict military discipline, ATN said: "There is no more information but there is no talk of full mobilization. Our sources in Ashgabat haven't yet received summons to military enlistment offices."

Central Asia Struggles with IMU
Afghanistan's other Central Asian neighbors are also keeping a close eye on the situation. As previously discussed, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has established a strong presence in Badakhshan Province in northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan would prefer if the terrorists stayed there:

Uzbekistan works to bottle up IMU in Afghanistan

In connection with reports of an increase in IMU activity in Afghanistan, Uzbek authorities are discussing ways to keep the terrorist organisation out of Uzbekistan.

The IMU is numerous in Afghanistan, but Uzbek security forces keep the situation under control, Uzbek National Security Service (SNB) spokesman Khotib S. said.

"The IMU has more than 5,000 militants, according to our information," he said. "Just several years ago [they] were mostly based along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Today we are troubled by the combination of increased IMU activity and deployment in northern [Afghanistan], that is, along the border of the former Soviet republics."

Tashkent-based political scientist Rustam Khaydarov also pointed to reports that the IMU has joined forces with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Since both terrorist groups have vowed to fight against China in accordance with Washington's East Turkestan project, this merger would be hardly surprising. Meanwhile, the IMU has still not given up on NATO's campaign in Syria:

Member of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan suspected of terrorism detained in Osh Airport

A member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, suspected of mercenary activities and terrorism, was detained in Osh Airport of Kyrgyzstan, the press service of the Osh police department reported on February 24.

The man, according to the operational data, received military training in Waziristan region of Pakistan within the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Then he moved to Turkey where he actively recruited Kyrgyz citizens to fight on the side of the Syrian opposition.

According to Kyrgyzstan's intelligence agency, over 100 natives of Osh region have received military training in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and other countries in recent time and the IMU as well as Hizb ut-Tahrir manage to recruit more and more Kyrgyz citizens. Although the Kyrgyz authorities busted several terrorist recruiters and detained countless members of Hizb ut-Tahrir since the beginning of this year, they fail to get on top of the problem. The same goes for neighboring Tajikistan:

One of Cholov brothers arrested for calling on Kulob youth to participate in jihad in Syria

One of former field commanders of the Popular Front of the Popular Front of Tajikistan (PFT -- a paramilitary group that supported the government during the five-year conflict), Davlat Cholov, has been arrested for calling on Kulob youth to fight on the side of antigovernment forces in Syria, a source at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) told Asia-Plus today.

“There is suspicion that over the past several months, Davlat Cholov has participated in mutiny in Egypt and on return to Tajikistan he was going to call on young men to go with him to Syria to fight on the side on Syrian rebel forces,” the source said.

This week, Tajikistan's Supreme Court sentenced IMU member Alimurod Makhanov, the leader of the terrorist group, which had planned to disrupt last year's sham elections in the Central Asian Republic, to 21 years in prison. The Tajik authorities are very nervous with regards to terrorist activities, as demonstrated by the recent killing of two Afghan fishermen at the hands of Tajik border guards, who had probably mistaken the fishermen for Taliban. 
NED's "Democratic Reforms" In Tajikistan
But Taliban and other terrorists are only a minor threat to the rule of the Tajik regime in comparison with Washington's efforts to implement "democratic reforms" in the country [emphasis mine]:

IWPR holds a training workshop on human rights activists – media cooperation

The representative office of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) in Tajikistan completed a two-day training workshop on Human Rights Defenders and Media Cooperation on March 17.

‘The training workshop was implemented within the framework of a new three-year project “Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan” supported by the European Union under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) as well as Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Endowment for Democracy (NED). 

IWPR's partner organizations include among others the above mentioned International Crisis Group, Freedom House and George Soros' Open Society Institute. So it is only logical that the National Endowment for Democracy, CIA's overt branch, is supporting this project as well. The World Bank, which is also very active in Tajikistan, boasted recently about the large number of NGOs in the Central Asian country:


Strengthening Ties with Civil Society in Tajikistan

Civil society in Tajikistan has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade. Registered non-profit or non-governmental organizations grew tenfold from 1997, rising from 300 to 3,000 in 2013.

Dushanbe would be well-advised to follow Moscow's example by examining the funding of these NGOs with a foreign agent law. If Tajik leader Emomalii Rahmon does not realize what the NED, Soros & Co. are up to, he can ask Viktor Yanukovych to explain it to him. In the meantime, Washington is already grooming Rahmon's successor [emphasis mine]:

Oynihol Bobonazarova among 10 women given US bravery award

Ms. Oynihol Bobonazarova, a pioneer of the human rights movement in Tajikistan, was among 10 women awarded as "International Women of Courage" by the U.S. Department of State.

A lawyer by profession, Ms. Bobonazarova is best known for her advocacy of human rights and her work with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Open Society Institute/Assistance Foundation.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

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  1. CuChulainn says:

    convicted–a harsh life sentence!!
    probably in the same prison with Ali Muhammed

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