Highlighting its interest in combating terrorism around the world, the United States of America today revealed efforts to address imminent Islamist militant threats to Central Asian states.
In his testimony in Washington Dc today, Assistant Secretary Rober O. Blake, Jr. for Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs says despite the real gains in stability in Afghanistan, US planned drawdown in Afghanistan and continued use of the Northern Distribution Network has raised anxiety levels among our Central Asian partners about the increased potential for instability and extremism, especially beyond 2014.
He says this is no time for complacency when it comes to extremism.
Actions to address extremism in the region
According to Mr. Blake, US foreign assistance programs seek to build the capacity of Central Asian countries to address transnational threats such as those posed by Islamist militant groups while promoting regional economic integration and development.
“We also use our engagement as a mechanism to tackle issues related to human rights, rule of law and corruption and promote economic growth, as failure to address these could contribute to militancy.” – Mr. Blake
To achieve these objectives, the US is using a combination of diplomatic engagement and bilateral and multilateral assistance.
On the diplomatic front, Mr. Blake says the United States holds annual bilateral consultations with each of the five Central Asian countries.
These consultations, which Mr. Blake chair with the Foreign Ministers or Deputy Foreign Ministers of each country, form the cornerstone of US bilateral relationships.
Through these, the US conveys a consistent message that democratic reform, respect for freedom of expression and religion, and an active civil society all contribute to stability, while cracking down on dissent and driving it underground may create more favorable conditions for radicalism.
In addition, US public diplomacy and assistance programs also reinforce our objective of strengthening respect for human rights and the rule of law.
US bilateral security assistance is helping build the Central Asian states’ capacity to counter a broad range of threats, including terrorism.
According to Mr. Blake, in 2012, the United States provided approximately $215 million of security assistance to the countries of Central Asia.
He says the bulk of this assistance focused on building capacity of law enforcement agencies to address transnational threats, including terrorism and narcotics trafficking.
US recognizes that its interest in combating terrorism and other cross-border threats are shared by others, so it is engaging with other countries that are active in Central Asia in a cooperative approach to regional security and stability.
“I have made it a personal priority to expand significantly our consultations with Russia, China, the EU and others on Central Asia and we have seen successful cooperation in a number of key initiatives that are outlined in my written testimony.” – Mr. Blake
He underlines that US efforts and assistance commitments are based on a comprehensive and proactive approach to strengthening the capacity of Central Asian states to address a range of transnational threats.
However, Mr. Blake says with the limited threat currently posed by Islamist militants to Central Asia, however, is no reason for complacency or retreat.
He says the Central Asian states face a broad range of challenges that, as in many other societies, could fuel radicalism in the long run and threaten the security and interests of the United States and our allies.
“Addressing those challenges demands our continued vigilance and engagement in this region.” – Mr. Blake
Central Asia Vulnerable to extremism
UN says Central Asia is one of the most interdependent regions of the world, with a large population, a potential common market and a crossroad of energy routes.
To date, UN says the region’s five countries have been spared large-scale terrorist attacks.
Yet it cannot be denied that there is a growing concern about the possibly of intensifying activities of various extremist, terrorist, and criminal groups and networks operating in Central Asia, fuelled by instability in the wider region and porous borders through which extremism and criminal networks penetrate the region.
UN points out vigilance and measures that have tightened security in Central Asia have helped keep the threat of terrorism at bay, but extremists, criminal groups and instability in the wider area mean that the region is still vulnerable.
Prevention of terrorism in Central Asia is key not only to protecting the well-being of populations and ensuring national and regional stability, according to UN.
UN formulates scheme to fight the scourge
The new UN scheme for Central Asia aims to help Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan establish a regional counter-terrorism plan in line with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
That Global Strategy, unanimously adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, focuses on four key pillars of action: tackling the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; preventing and combating terrorism; building State capacity and bolstering the role of the UN; and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law against the backdrop of the fight against terrorism. Further expert meetings will be held in the region next year looking at other parts of the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The meetings will lead to the drawing up of a joint action plan implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia, which is expected to be adopted during a regional ministerial conference to be held in 2011.