Friday, January 31, 2014

2014: A New Year for Uzbekistan's National Security

               This semester I will be posting my research and commentary on Uzbekistan’s emerging national security policies, strengths, and complications in 2014.  Conversation concerning national security is occurring in both state and citizen media circles, and I intend to elucidate these perspectives.  I will also provide these within a context of developing current affairs in the country and region.
                One of the chief national security concerns facing Uzbek policymakers is the stability of Afghanistan and the expected 2014 withdrawal of international coalition forces.  The leadership of Uzbekistan suspects the withdrawal of coalition forces to precipitate an increase in border violence and instability.  In January 2014, President Islam Karimov issued a rallying cry in the form of a statement to the armed services of Uzbekistan.  In the statement, he congratulates the armed forces of Uzbekistan on the 22nd anniversary of their formation.  He states that the armed forces of Uzbekistan must remain vigilant and battle-ready.  Karimov warns of “growing threats” in Uzbekistan’s border areas, and that it is necessary for Uzbek forces to increase their mobility in order “to pre-empt” them.  Specifics of the message include preparing helicopter assault units and reviewing the training of non-commissioned officers.
                Afghanistan is most likely not the singular Uzbek national security concern at the moment.  On January 11, 2014, Tajik guards of the Vorukh enclave exchanged fire with Kyrgyz border guards.  The Vorukh enclave is a settlement of ethnic Tajiks situated with guarded borders within the southwest of Kyrgyzstan.  According to RIA Moscow’s special correspondent Arkadiy Dubnov, the recent violence at the Vorukh enclave is currently the main threat to stability in the region, rather than the withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan.  Perhaps this is one of the “growing threats” President Islam Karimov referred to in his January 13, 2014 message to the armed forces of Uzbekistan.  While the Vorukh enclave is located closer to the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border, it is not far from Uzbekistan’s Fergana valley border either.  What can be said, then, is that President Karimov is also marshaling the armed forces of Uzbekistan in anticipation of a return of violence in the Fergana valley.
                What was typical of conflicts in the region in the past was the migration of opposition fighters across the borders of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan through the Fergana valley, which is divided between the three republics.  Any violence or perceived threat of armed forces in the area is likely to prompt Uzbekistan to assume a defensive, even “pre-emptive” position, as seen with the call to maintain combat readiness and increase capacities. 
In 2013, Uzbekistan modified itsmigration policy to call for longer sentences of imprisonment for Uzbek nationals and foreigners who engage in any sort of illegal migration into or out of the country.  Through this legislation, Uzbekistan has manufactured deterrence to the inward migration of potential or listed enemies of the state.  It is likely that the Uzbek state increased the severity of punishment after considering the amount of Uzbek jihadists fighting in the Syrian civil war in association with the al-Nusra front. 
                These developments signify a climate of anxiety and uncertainty among Uzbekistan’s policymakers.  As was the case during Tajikistan’s civil war in 1992, Uzbekistan is assuming an increasingly defensive and possibly pre-emptive national security policy.  For now, it appears that any progress towards intraregional cooperation for security is being overshadowed by a policy of suspicion and defense mobilization.
1 - ministerstvo inostrannykh del respubliki uzbekistan "Prazdnichnoye pozdravleniye zashchitnikam Rodiny po sluchayu 22-letiya obrazovaniya Vooruzhennykh Sil Respubliki Uzbekistan" 13 Jan 2014

2 - Dubnov, Arkadiy. RIA Novosti "Pervaya voyna 2014 goda prodolzhalas' okolo chasa" 13 Jan 2014

3 - Nuriya. Golos Islama "V Uzbekistane za nezakonnuyu migratsiyu budut sazhat' v tyur'mu"
10 Jan 2013


  1. Nice post. If you get a chance, you might also examine the info-battle going on within the Uzbek Islamic population. (For instance, see this link:
    Combined with Karimov’s declining health, the situation in Uzbekistan is likely to become more radicalized with the US retreat from Afghanistan.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Ray! Funny that you mention that particular video, because I happened to stumble upon it before returning to Lawrence after the holidays. Hizb-ut-Tahrir appears to be making a lot of chatter. I will be keeping an eye on this. It might be likely that organizations like HT and IMU-splinter groups will seize the opportunity to fight for power once again in Fergana after US withdrawal.