Russian and US authorities warn of Islamic State rise in Central Asia
Russia and the United States have endorsed the officials who will be responsible for setting up a high-level business group, Kommersant writes. That’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to his US counterpart Donald Trump during their summit in Helsinki in July 2018.
This work will be overseen by President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin and CEO of the US-Russia Business Council Daniel Russell. According to the information obtained by the paper, they were tasked with organizing the group’s first meeting on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2020.
According to Kommersant’s sources speaking on condition of anonymity, Russia was ready to start implementing Putin’s initiative without delay, but there were no clear signals from the Americans for a long time.
For their part, officials in Washington said that top entrepreneurs were skeptical about the idea, referring to the existing specialized bilateral organizations and stressing that American businesspeople did not want to attract attention to their work with Russian partners.
The parties were also exploring the possibility of holding the group’s first preparatory meeting on October 21 on the sidelines of the 33rd session of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) in Russia. However, a separate Russian-US meeting did not take place at the time.
However, even if the group meets next June as planned, one should expect no breakthrough decisions from its work.
Igor Yurgens, member of the Management Board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, explained to Kommersant that “currently, there are no grounds for permanent methodological and fruitful work with the Americans.” He stressed that sanctions, informal bans and small-scale bilateral trade turnover had an adverse effect on the situation. “I don’t think there will be some specific plans regarding the new group before the US election. Perhaps, there will be more clarity by the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, when there is an answer to the question whether or not impeachment moves [against Donald Trump] will be successful. Preparatory work on a high-level group can be in progress, but it is too early to talk about specific plans,” he said.
Moscow believes that penetration by Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia) militants into neighboring countries poses an enormous danger. Moreover, these terrorists are being transported to Central Asia, Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Izvestia. According to the senior diplomat, Russia and other countries, specifically, Iran, have repeatedly warned about such a threat coming from Middle Eastern countries and militants in Afghanistan.
His remarks came in the wake of reports that about twenty IS militants crossed the border with Tajikistan and attacked an outpost on the Tajik-Uzbek border some 60 kilometers west of Dushanbe. Their mission was to carry out terror attacks in order to destabilize the situation in Tajikistan.
“Unfortunately, this incident shows that it is essential to fight this evil and danger, taking preventive measures. We cannot wait until greater numbers of terrorists will penetrate into Central Asian allied countries. That’s a major threat to Russia. However, this is also a threat to our Central Asian partners, first and foremost,” Kabulov stressed.
He noted that Russia was providing assistance to its allies in the region, mainly within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
“I have no doubt whatsoever about their combat capability. This doesn’t mean, however, that these republics that are friendly towards Russia should remain calm. That’s a serious warning for all of them,” he added.
The ramped-up activity by militants near Tajikistan’s borders is by no means something new. In different years, about 1,000 of the country’s citizens travelled abroad to fight alongside the Islamic State, and, after that terror group was ousted from Syria and Iraq, they ended up in neighboring Afghanistan.
Such incidents on the Afghan-Tajik border occur more than twenty times every year, Nikita Mendkovich, an expert at the Center for Modern Afghanistan Studies, told Izvestia. “The latest border raid can be viewed as a dangerous symptom. This sort of offensive reconnaissance has intensified, and there will be more border raids and attempts to infiltrate by terrorists from the IS and other terror groups into Tajikistan in the future,” he warned.