Is the CIA Infiltrating Central Asia Via Turkish Muslims?
That is apparently the claim of former top Turkish intelligence official Osman Nuri Gundes, who has published a memoir alleging that the Fethullah Gulen movement has been sheltering CIA agents in Central Asia since the 1990s. According to the Washington Post's SpyTalk blog, "in the 1990s, Gundes alleges, the movement "sheltered 130 CIA agents" at its schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan alone."
The Gulen movement already is a controversial one in Central Asia, with governments cracking down to varying degrees because of the group's alleged Islamist or pan-Turkic bent. And that's without allegations of being a CIA stalking horse.
SpyTalk's author, Jeff Stein, talked to a couple of former CIA officials involved with Central Asia and they poured cold water on the allegation:
Former CIA operative Robert Baer, chief of the agency’s Central Asia and Caucasus operations from 1995 through 1997, called the allegations bogus. "The CIA didn't have any ‘agents’ in Central Asia during my tenure,” he said.
It’s possible, Baer granted, that the CIA “turned around this ship after I left,” but only the spy agency could say for sure, and the CIA does not comment on operational sources and methods.
A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Gundes’s “accounts are ringing no bells whatsoever.”
But that's what they would say, isn't it... Anyway, Sibel Edmonds, the FBI-translator-turned-whistleblower, says that account doesn't go far enough, and the Gulen movement is an extremist Islamist one -- and that the CIA is cooperating with them nevertheless:
Based on what I personally know, US Islamization Operations in Central Asia via Gulen started in late 1997, early 1998.
How much of this is true? Anyone's guess. But I think it's a safe bet that Gundes's book is being read closely at KGB offices in Tashkent, Dushanbe and Ashgabat...
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.