Several destabilizing dynamics persist throughout eastern Central Asia, such as weak governance, poor social and economic conditions, ethnic tensions and religious militancy. While these differ in kind and scope in each country, some conflict drivers are transnational in scope, such as energy insecurity and environmental degradation.

Summary

  • Several destabilizing dynamics persist throughout eastern Central Asia, such as weak governance, poor social and economic conditions, ethnic tensions and religious militancy. While these differ in kind and scope in each country, some conflict drivers are transnational in scope, such as energy insecurity and environmental degradation.
  • Most factors mitigating or managing conflict-risks--such as foreign capital injections, migrant remittances and Soviet-style repression--are unsustainable and could trigger future violence.
  • Given the deep Uzbek suspicion of any foreign, particularly Western, presence in the region, conflict prevention efforts should primarily focus on the Kyrgyz and Tajik side of the Ferghana Valley, a potential hotbed of instability.
  • The U.S. government (USG) should coordinate its engagements in Central Asia with regional powers China and Russia; these efforts should be complemented by policy initiatives that tackle the unique challenges facing each country.

About This Brief

On February 16, USIP convened an expert meeting on Central Asia to build a greater understanding of regional stability issues that could affect U.S. development aims. This meeting and the ‘Kyrgyz revolution’ in early April inspired this Peace Brief, which will assess the region-wide factors driving and mitigating the potential for conflict as well as some of the conflict dynamics unique to each country specifically. This brief focuses on Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the Central Asian countries most prone to conflict.

Related Publications

With Friends Like These: How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Hurts Central Asia

With Friends Like These: How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Hurts Central Asia

Monday, February 28, 2022

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

While accepting Russia’s big footprint in their security and economic lives, Central Asian countries have tried to conduct “multi-vector” foreign policies. These countries know that having good (or at least balanced) relations with Russia, China and the United States is important in the long term — and that Central Asian leaders who’ve tried to play the big powers against each other often wind up the loser. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

To Help Central Asia, Engage with Muslim Civil Society

To Help Central Asia, Engage with Muslim Civil Society

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

By: James Rupert

Kazakhstan’s violent upheaval this month underscores that governments and international organizations need to more effectively help Central Asia’s 76 million people build responsive, effective governance across their five nations. Mass protests or communal violence also have struck Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in recent years. As the United States, allied governments and international institutions seek ways to promote nonviolent transitions toward more stable, democratic rule, new research suggests that they explore for partners in an often-ignored sector—Central Asia’s active and disparate Muslim civil society.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceReligion

Engaging with Muslim Civil Society in Central Asia: Components, Approaches, and Opportunities

Engaging with Muslim Civil Society in Central Asia: Components, Approaches, and Opportunities

Friday, December 10, 2021

By: Sebastien Peyrouse;  Emil Nasritdinov

When Western policymakers and development practitioners turn their attention to Central Asia, they too often overlook Muslim civil society as a potential partner for addressing the region’s economic and social problems. This report, which is based on dozens of interviews with representatives of Muslim civil society organizations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, is intended to help generate a much-needed conversation about Muslim civil society in Central Asia and how Western donors and practitioners can begin tapping their potential.

Type: Peaceworks

Democracy & Governance

Understanding Organized Crime and Violence in Central Asia

Understanding Organized Crime and Violence in Central Asia

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

By: Lawrence P. Markowitz;  Mariya Y. Omelicheva

The influence of organized crime on governance and the rule of law in Central Asia has long been recognized, but its role in violence is less broadly understood. Looking at conflicts in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, this report examines the ways that organized criminal actors exploit popular mobilization (such as protests) and weaken state controls in episodes of violence. Recommendations for governments, international agencies, and civil society groups draw from expert interviews and research to address the range of organized criminal motives and circumstances.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications