My latest with The New Republic looks at the Obama administration’s blinkered decision to donate massive amounts of armor to Uzbekistan:
In 2012, Washington quietly opted to lift a ban on military aid to Karimov that had been in place for nearly a decade—a move the Obama administration supported. Geopolitical realities had shifted. Russia and its military stood resurgent in the region, while the United States was growing more dependent on central Asia for Afghanistan access—thanks to inflamed tensions with Pakistan—as it lost standing in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. That Kyrgyz toehold is now gone, a casualty of blowback against American support for Kyrgyzstan’s now-ousted autocratic regime. With this latest donation, it appears the United States is trying to maintain leverage in a region that has been shopping Moscow and Beijing for patronage.
But this isn’t 2002. The United States doesn’t need to buy off regional pariah regimes, swapping goods for access to Afghanistan. “The timing of this is shocking,” Luca Anceschi, a lecturer in Central Asian Studies at the University of Glasgow, told me. “It shows [the administration] has no regional sensitivity.… I can’t see why they’re doing this now. It absolutely makes no sense to me.”
Over at The Diplomat, meanwhile, I tossed cold water on the claims of Central Asians surging to join ISIS:
There have been no signs since October of the colossal increase in Central Asian fighters ICSR claims. While this may be, partly, an attempt to correct the fact that the prior report failed to note anyone outside of Kyrgyzstan joining ISIS, it’s simultaneously disingenuous to claim that the regional numbers have grown from 30 to 1,400 in a matter of three months. Moreover, while ICSR notes that tabulating the fighters isn’t an “exact science,” some of the numbers proffered for regional fighters are in fact oddly exact. Between the 190 fighters from Tajikistan and the 360 from Turkmenistan, ICSR’s estimates carry implications of accuracy that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist. While they remain somewhat close to governmental estimates – Kazakhstan at 300, Tajikistan at 200 – they attempted to offer an estimate that was too fine by half.