Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Foreword

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Foreword

Article excerpt

The events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan saw their fair share of winners and losers in the international arena. The Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, at the very least, got noticed. As the United States scrambled for tactical support from willing allies, several of the aforementioned states immediately complied. In exchange for military bases and overflight rights--essential for U.S. success in Afghanistan--the Central Asian republics received aid and orders to maintain sluggish democratic reforms.

Optimism bloomed inside and outside the region. Eager for their slice of the fortune, these states, rich in oil, could generate great wealth with sufficient investment from abroad. This excessive optimism, however, overlooked a few facts. The Central Asian republics are, for the most part, tyrannical regimes. Militant Islam is on the rise, as is the suppression of democratic opposition groups. The region is home to the world's worst environmental disaster and is a key thoroughfare in the global drug trade.

September 11th also cast the Central Asian republics in a new strategic light. They suddenly became important to many nations, particularly the United States. This importance gave the region's leaders unforeseen leverage. But have changes been felt in the countries themselves? …

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