Before wading into the question whether some external players are likely to conjure up ISIS-like apparition in Central Asia, we must bring up a few related facts to avoid the whole thing being dismissed as a conspiracy theory:
- One: We can deduce from the latest developments in Syria that ISIS was an experiment gone horribly wrong. Without stating the obvious as to who put together and brought to life this monster – for ISIS is anything but a wild mushroom capable of sprouting on its own – it is clear that everyone now considers Assad a lesser evil.
- Two: Wherever the Islamic militancy shows its face, the textbook response is to bomb and smash the vital infrastructure of that country under the devious logic that it is meant to deprive the insurgents of their sources of income. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, country after country, the whole nations who were fairly well off before ‘humanitarian intervention,’ have been reduced to the status of paupers.
- Three: The infrastructure in Central Asia, mainly the oil and gas pipelines and transport and transit facilities, are of essential significance to China and other regional countries.
- Four: Americans have no intention of leaving Afghanistan and the region. In Afghanistan, they have already sown the seeds of permanent instability in the shape of Afghan Local Police (ALP) and the local militias, the two systems that are basically run by warlords of their choice, independent of any meaningful control from the central government.
- Five: There is the perception in the American and Russian policymakers that Afghanistan and Central Asia are about to undergo a period of vacuum and both would like to jostle with each other to fill that vacuum.
These facts should be kept in mind to anchor the rest of the narrative.
Shapeless anger, no matter how big, cannot on its own give birth to systematic, sustained resistance to a sitting government on its own. In order to convert the accumulated anger into a force to reckon with, there has to be a plan, at least one alternate plan, the managers at various tiers to put the plan(s) into step by step implementation, the financial and material resources to sustain the plan, the communications drive to rally the support of the communities where the plan is unfolding, and ultimately the media circus to convince the world that a genuine struggle is taking place against an oppressive regime.
This is a complex task and the local communities in Afghanistan or Central Asia cannot be expected to transform themselves into ISIS-like structure on their own. At most, they can cause some localized trouble which can be addressed with local action.
Here, it is essential to introduce another layer to the already thick paradigm: There is chaos and then there is the fear of chaos and both of them have different purposes when created systematically.
If a wide territory flares up in resistance and the writ of the sitting government is paralyzed, it is chaos.
If localized incidents that are alarming on their own but cannot cause any disruption to the system of governance, are blown out of proportion by the media and other people who have the means of their voice being heard, it is called the cultivation of fear of chaos.
What we are seeing in the ISIS stories of the media is the effort to build up the fear of chaos in the region.
The next two months would be crucial: Uzbekistan is having presidential elections this month and Kazakhstan has called early presidential elections, scheduled for the next month. Dostem, the notorious warlord of previous years and currently the first vice president of Afghanistan, is threatening to create another army of his own. Iran nuclear negotiations are coming closer to some kind of milestone and that will impact the region simply because that will impact Iran’s approach to the region. TAPI is coming close to its implementation stage and some parties may not be happy about that. The entire Central Asia region is moving full swing with the development of the transport and transit infrastructure that will alter the global trade picture some five years down the lane; some parties may not be comfortable with that.
The fear of chaos can be stitched around these and other developments in the region and even localized incidents can be engineered to give the illusion of the appearance of a version of ISIS in the neighbourhood.
In order to be ready for this kind of situation, the regional governments need to study the phenomenon of Jundullah.
To be continued . . .