Moscow – Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu predicts, ‘Armed conflicts similar to that in Syria may soon emerge in post-Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus region, prompting Russia to respond’. ‘Islamic State’ terrorists have increased violent activities in the Russian neighboring countries of Central Asia’. The statement made by the Russian Defense Minister is of vital significance.
‘In these circumstances, Russia will be forced to adequately respond to potential threats.” He was speaking at a scientific conference on Russia’s anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) operation in Syria.
Russia has been able to severely dent the ‘IS’ groups. The anti-‘IS’ operation in Syria helped decimate Islamist groupings made up of fighters coming from many countries, including Russia and other post-Soviet states, Shoigu reiterated. He added it is estimated around 4,500 nationals of the Soviet Union and post-Soviet countries have joined IS and other terrorist organizations in 2015. The Defense Minister fears that their failure could bring them back to the country.
‘Zamir Kabulov’, the head of the Asia and Middle East department of the Russian foreign ministry, who also serves as special envoy of the Russian president to Afghanistan has stated that, ’The presence of Islamic State is a significant security threat. Afghanistan has 10,000 IS fighters (spectacular growth as a year ago there were 100) trained to expand to Russia and Central Asia.
“The Afghan branch of ‘IS’ is definitely specialized against Central Asia. Russian is even one of their working languages,” Kabulov added. “They are being trained against Central Asia and Russia.”
Central Asia is one of the most-populous and poorest regions of former Soviet Union whose stability is very fragile. The region is going through an economic downturn; unemployment and stagnation are on the rise. Fertile ground for radicalization. Earlier reports have suggested existence of sleeper cells or in the form of recruitment infrastructure that selects and sends young people for jihad to Iraq and Syria.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are members of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) a Russian led security alliance formed to protect the region from outside threats.