“For if Kyrgyzstan fails as a state, and inter-ethnic violence … is not contained, the resulting security vacuum in Kyrgyzstan could threaten the fragile stability of central Asia as a whole.” — Vicken Cheterian, Open Democracy
In an essay entitled Kyrgyzstan failing, an arc in crisis published in Open Democracy, Vicken Cheterian, author of War and Peace in the Caucasus: Russia’s Troubled Frontier, provides an excellent primer for understanding recent events in Kyrgyzstan and pinpointing what is at stake for the country and the region.
Cheterian explains how the recent overthrow of Krygyzstan’s president coupled with inter-ethnic violence has thrown the country into chaos. The implications of a failed Kyrgyz state are potentially quite dire. Cheterian writes,
He goes on to argue that ethnic tensions could spread to engulf more areas in Central Asia and affect the politics and security of nations such as Uzbekistan. The other potential fallout could be a rise in jihadism. Cheterian writes:
The second factor is a revival of jihadism. In the late 1990s, Islamist guerrillas used the mountainous region of southern Kyrgyzstan, especially the province of Batken, as a safe haven from which to initiate attacks deep inside Uzbekistan. The spread of Taliban activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the increasing reliance of Nato forces on supply-lines passing through central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) make it possible that the region might become a new space for confrontation. The prospect here is that the evident inability of the Kyrgyz state to control its own territory, at a time the Taliban is reviving, could reawaken dormant Islamist militants in the Ferghana valley, the divided heart of central Asia.
The stakes in Kyrgyzstan are thus very high, for the country and the region alike.