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THE UNITED STATES MUST TREAD CAREFULLY IN CENTRAL ASIA

The deployment of American military forces in Central Asia brings with it far-reaching obligations that if not upheld by Washington will increase the long-term risks of terrorism. Social and economic conditions in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – Afghanistan's northern neighbors – are combustible. Even if the United States conducts the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan perfectly, social and political conditions are likely to remain unsettled in Central Asia. Fostering stability will require not only a prolonged American or NATO military presence in the region, but also a far-reaching economic assistance initiative.

While radical Islamic beliefs certainly motivate terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) military commander Juma Namangani, it is Central Asia's social and economic dysfunction that enables terrorist leaders to find recruits for the IMU and other radical groups, including the Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Even if the United States can eliminate today's terrorist groups, containing terrorism over the longer term will require US planners to address broader regional security and economic issues.

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Justin Burke is the editor of EurasiaNet.

THE UNITED STATES MUST TREAD CAREFULLY IN CENTRAL ASIA

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