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  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS). Prompted in part by political marginalisation and bleak economic prospects that characterise their post-Soviet region, 2,000-4,000 have in the past three years turned their back on their secular states to seek a radical alternative. IS beckons not only to those who seek combat experience, but also to those who envision a more devout, purposeful, fundamentalist religious life. This presents a complex problem to the governments of Central Asia. They are tempted to exploit the phenomenon to crack down on dissent. The more promising solution, however, requires addressing multiple political and administrative failures, revising discriminatory laws and policies, implementing outreach programs for both men and women and creating jobs at home for disadvantaged youths, as well as ensuring better coordination between security services.
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia’s only even nominal parliamentary democracy, faces growing internal and external security challenges. Deep ethnic tensions, increased radicalisation in the region, uncertainty in Afghanistan and the possibility of a chaotic political succession in Uzbekistan are all likely to have serious repercussions for its stability. The risks are exacerbated by leadership failure to address major economic and political problems, including corruption and excessive Kyrgyz nationalism. Poverty is high, social services are in decline, and the economy depends on remittances from labour migrants. Few expect the 4 October parliamentary elections to deliver a reformist government. If the violent upheavals to which the state is vulnerable come to pass, instability could spread to regional neighbours, each of which has its own serious internal problems. The broader international community – not just the European Union (EU) and the U.S., but also Russia and China, should recognise the danger and proactively press the government to address the country’s domestic issues with a sense of urgency.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, has been the dominant institution in the country for most of its post-independence history. After decades of military rule, it began the shift to a semi-civilian government. A new generation of leaders in the military and in government pushed the transition far further and much faster than anyone could have imagined. Major questions remain, however, about the Tatmadaw's intentions, its ongoing involvement in politics and the economy, and whether and within what timeframe it will accept to be brought under civilian control. Transforming from an all-powerful military to one that accepts democratic constraints on its power will be an enormous challenge.
  • Topic: Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: East Asia, Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The November 2010 elections in Myanmar were not free and fair and the country has not escaped authoritarian rule. Predictably, in such a tightly controlled poll, the regime's own Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a landslide victory leaving the military elite still in control. Together with the quarter of legislative seats reserved for soldiers, this means there will be little political space for opposition members in parliament. The new government that has been formed, and which will assume power in the coming weeks, also reflects the continued dominance of the old order with the president and one of the two vice presidents drawn from its ranks and a number of cabinet ministers recycled.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nearly a year after the crackdown on anti-establishment demonstrations, Thailand is preparing for a general election. Despite government efforts to suppress the Red Shirt movement, support remains strong and the deep political divide has not gone away. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's roadmap for reconciliation has led almost nowhere. Although there have been amateurish bomb attacks carried out by angry Red Shirts since the crackdown, fears of an underground battle have not materialised. On the other side, the Yellow Shirts have stepped up their nationalist campaigns against the Democrat Party-led government that their earlier rallies had helped bring to power. They are now claiming elections are useless in “dirty” politics and urging Thais to refuse to vote for any of the political parties. Even if the elections are free, fair and peaceful, it will still be a challenge for all sides to accept the results. If another coalition is pushed together under pressure from the royalist establishment, it will be a rallying cry for renewed mass protests by the Red Shirts that could plunge Thailand into more violent confrontation.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nepal's peace process has moved into a phase of definitive progress. More than five years after the ceasefire, the parties have reached a deal on the Maoist fighters, who will leave the cantonments and enter the army or civilian life. An unofficial deal sets out power-sharing arrangements until the next election. The parties are focusing on the critical task of writing a new constitution, which promises a deep restructuring of the state to become more representative and decentralised. Challenges remain, including from continuously evolving coalition dynamics and divisions within parties. There will also have to be further discussions on the combatants. As the parties discuss federalism, which of all peace process issues goes most to the heart of ordinary Nepalis' expectations and anxieties, groups within and outside the Constituent Assembly will see their options narrow, which could strain the process. Yet, this is still the best chance the parties have had to reach formal closure on the war and to institute some of the fundamental changes they promised, provided they have the courage to make far-sighted compromises.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Politics, Armed Struggle, Governance
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Nepal
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: India and Pakistan have consistently subjected Kashmiri interests to their own national security agendas and silenced calls for greater autonomy. With the start of their composite dialogue – comprehensive negotiations to resolve all contentious bilateral issues, including Kashmir, launched in February 2004 – both appeared willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) but failed to engage Kashmiris in the process. As a result, they did not take full advantage of opportunities to enhance cross-LOC cooperation by identifying the most appropriate Kashmir-specific confidence-building measures (CBMs), and bureaucratic resistance in both capitals resulted in uneven implementation of even those that had been agreed. India has suspended the composite dialogue since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistan based militants, but neither New Delhi nor Islamabad has backtracked on these CBMs. Nevertheless, the CBM process will only achieve major results if the two sides devolve authority to Kashmir's elected representatives and take other vital steps to win over its alienated public.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Islam, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, India, Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The two sentiments that define the political impasse in Papua are frustration on the part of many Papuans that “special autonomy” has meant so little, and exasperation on the part of many Indonesian government officials that Papuans are not satisfied with what they have been given. The gulf between the two might be reduced by dialogue, but any prospect of serious talks is hampered by an un-willingness of Jakarta to treat the problem as essentially a political, rather than an economic one. To move forward, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs personally to take the lead in recognising that autonomy means more than increased budgetary allocations or accelerated economic development. He needs to explore directly with credible Papuan leaders how political autonomy can be expanded; affirmative action policies strengthened in all sectors; and Papuan fears about in-migration addressed. Unless these three issues are tackled head on in face-to-face meetings, the impasse is unlikely to be broken and increased radicalisation is likely.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Eight years after independence, Timor-Leste is still with- out a legal basis for determining ownership of land. In its absence, the challenges of enforcing property rights have grown more complex and increased the potential for conflict. The politically charged task of sifting through over- lapping claims inherited from the country's two colonial administrations has been complicated by widespread illegal occupation of property after the displacement of over half the population that followed the 1999 referendum. The legal and social uncertainties this created magnified the effects of the country's 2006 crisis, causing further mass displacement in the capital and beyond. Resolution of these uncertainties through new laws, regulations and policies is necessary to reduce conflict, diminish the risk of further instability and to provide a clear way to resolve past and future disputes.
  • Topic: Environment, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Publication Date: 11-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The deadly conflict in Thailand's predominantly Malay Muslim South is at a stalemate. Although military operations might have contributed to the reduction in violence, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has made little effort to tackle the political grievances that drive the insurgency. A limited unilateral suspension of hostilities offered by rebels has met no significant response. Draconian laws that grant security forces sweeping powers remain imposed while justice for serious cases of past abuse remains unaddressed and torture of suspects continues. As bloody anti-government protests in Bangkok distracted the nation in early 2010, the death toll in the six-year-long insurgency steadily climbed. The conflict in the Deep South remains on the margins of Thai politics and unresolved. A paradigm shift is needed to acknowledge that assimilation of Malay Muslims has failed and that recognition of their distinct ethno-religious identity is essential. Dialogue with insurgents and reform of governance structures remain two missing components of a comprehensive political solution.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The election for governor in Indonesia's North Maluku province was one of the most bitterly contested since direct elections for local government heads were introduced in 2005. Held in November 2007, it remains in dispute more than a year later, although a winner has been named and inaugurated. At one point it seemed as if violence between the two sides could escalate into serious communal conflict, in an area where thousands had died in religious violence a decade earlier. By early 2009, however, it looked as though Indonesia's democratic institutions would be resilient enough to cope with an election gone wrong, and the dispute would be quietly resolved in the Constitutional Court. The Court's decision is expected in early February. The dispute that many thought could trigger further turmoil may prove instead to be a minor wrangle in Indonesia's largely successful effort to choose local government leaders by direct popular vote.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Six months after the collapse of autonomy negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines government, low-intensity conflict continues but moves are under way to resurrect talks. It is not clear whether negotiations will resume and if they do, with what agenda. Certainly no settlement is likely during the remaining tenure of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; the two sides are too far apart, the potential spoilers too numerous, and the political will too weak. The best that can be hoped for is progress around the edges.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, Philippines, Mindanao
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A year after the near-fatal shooting of President José Ramos-Horta, security in Timor-Leste is strikingly improved. Armed rebels are no longer at large. The atmosphere on the streets of Dili is far less tense. The government does not seem to be facing any serious political threat to its survival. It has, at least temporarily, been able to address several of the most pressing security threats, in large part by buying off those it sees as potential troublemakers. Nevertheless, the current period of calm is not cause for complacency. Security sector reform is lagging, the justice system is weak, the government shows signs of intolerance towards dissenting voices, and it has not got a grip on corruption. These problems, which have been at the root of the instability facing Timor-Leste since independence, must be tackled if the country is to escape the cycle of conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Vienna
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tensions in Aceh are high as elections approach, although they have receded somewhat from a peak in mid-February. The murders of three former combatants of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), other shootings and numerous grenade attacks over the last two months – all with unidentified perpetrators – have set the province on edge, and there remains a risk of sporadic, low-level violence before and after general elections on 9 April. Disputes over the results, with 44 parties competing for seats in district, provincial and national legislatures using a new and complicated system of voting, are also likely. There is little danger in the short term of violence escalating out of control, let alone a return to armed conflict, but the underlying causes of the tensions are not just election-related and need to be addressed if peace is to be preserved in the long term.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia, Australia/Pacific, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: North Korea says it is preparing to launch an experimental communications satellite using a rocket that is part of its ballistic missile program. This would be in the face of an international outcry, and of what is a strong though not definitive argument that it violates two UN Security Council resolutions. Japan has been most vocally opposed, saying it will shoot down the rocket if it threatens to fall on its territory. But even if the test is successful, it would only slightly increase security risks, while an overblown response would likely jeopardise the Six-Party Talks to end North Korea's nuclear program. What is needed is a calm, coordinated response from the key actors to raise pressure on Pyongyang to return to the talks rather than a divided reaction that only fulfils the North's desire to widen splits among its neighbours.
  • Topic: Security, Weapons of Mass Destruction, International Security
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Indonesia has earned well-deserved praise for its handling of home-grown extremism, but the problem has not gone away. In April 2009, ten men involved in a jihadi group in Palembang, South Sumatra, were sent to prison on terrorism charges for killing a Christian teacher and planning more ambitious attacks. Their history provides an unusually detailed case study of radicalisation - the process by which law-abiding individuals become willing to use violence to achieve their goals. The sobering revelation from Palembang is how easy that transformation can be if the right ingredients are present: a core group of individuals, a charismatic leader, motivation and opportunity. Another ingredient, access to weapons, is important but not essential: the Palembang group carried out its first attack with a hammer and only later moved to making bombs.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The motivations for North Korea's second nuclear test are, as with many of its actions, mostly impenetrable. It may be the latest step in an unrelenting drive to become a permanent nuclear state or it could be advertising nuclear wares to potential buyers. It may be driving up the price others will pay for the North to give up its weapons or it might be about ensuring that the military will accept whatever decision Kim Jong-il has made on his successor. Most likely, North Korea's nuclear weapons program serves multiple purposes for the leadership. Whatever the rationale, there are no good options in response. Finding a way to resume talks on ending the nuclear program may appear to reward Pyongyang's bad behaviour, but diplomacy is still the least bad option. At the same time, the UN Security Council's strong and united condemnation of the test in Resolution 1874 must be enforced, while containment of proliferation and deterrence of North Korean provocations need to be boosted.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In the wake of a conceptually flawed peace agreement, the Taliban takeover of large parts of Malakand division, subsequent military action in the area, almost three million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled to camps, homes, schools and other places of shelter across Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). The challenge for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government and international actors is to make relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts responsive to needs and empower local communities in Malakand Division. Failure to do so will reverse any gains on the battlefield and boost radical Islamist groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Central Asia, Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 17 July 2009, suicide bombers attacked two hotels in the heart of a Jakarta business district, killing nine and injuring more than 50, the first successful terrorist attack in Indonesia in almost four years. While no one has claimed responsibility, police are virtually certain it was the work of Noordin Mohammed Top, who leads a breakaway group from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the regional jihadi organisation responsible for the first Bali bombing in 2002. One of the hotels, the Marriott, was bombed by Noordin's group in 2003; this time, a meeting of mostly foreign businessmen appears to have been the target. The restaurant of the nearby Ritz-Carlton was also bombed.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than a month after the 17 July 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Noordin Mohammed Top remains at large, but his network is proving to be larger and more sophisticated than previously thought. Not only was it responsible for coordinated bombings at two luxury hotels in the heart of Jakarta's business district, but it also was apparently contemplating a car bomb attack on President Yudhoyono's residence. As more information comes to light, it looks increasingly likely that Noordin sought and received Middle Eastern funding. While the extent of foreign involvement this time around remains unclear, recruitment in Indonesia has proved disturbingly easy. The salafi jihadi ideology that legitimises attacks on the U.S. and its allies, and Muslims who associate with them, remains confined to a tiny fringe, but that fringe includes disaffected factions of many different radical groups and impressionable youths with no history of violence.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Indonesia, Asia, Jakarta