"Together, the United States and GUUAM will work to bring the perpetrators of the September 11 attack to justice and to fight terrorism. This conflict is a struggle to defend values common to Muslims and non-Muslims alike."
Joint statement by the United States and the Foreign Ministers of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova)
14 November 2001
No major terrorist attacks occurred in Eurasia in 2001. The region, however, which has suffered for years from Afghanistan-based extremism, provided integral support to the international Coalition against terrorism. States in the region provided overflight and temporary basing rights, shared law-enforcement and intelligence information, and moved aggressively to identify, monitor, and apprehend al-Qaida members and other terrorists. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, governments also took swift action to enhance security at US embassies and other key facilities against terrorist attacks. Countries in the region also took diplomatic and political steps to contribute to the international struggle against terrorism, such as becoming party to the 12 United Nations conventions against terrorism. The signatories to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Collective Security Treaty (CST) called for increased security along the borders of the member states, tighter passport and visa controls, increased involvement of law-enforcement agencies, and the reinforcement of military units. In addition, the CST Security Council planned to strengthen the year-old CIS antiterrorist center.
Enhancing regional counterterrorism cooperation has been a critical priority for the United States. Toward that end, the US Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism held the second annual Central Asia Counterterrorism Conference in Istanbul in June. Counterterrorism officials from four Central Asian countries, as well as Russia, Canada, Egypt, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, explored topics such as human rights, the rule of law, and combating terrorist financing. Throughout the conference, and in other bilateral and multilateral fora, the United States has consistently stressed that effective counterterrorism is impossible without respect for human rights and that the rule of law is a formidable and essential weapon in the fight against al-Qaida and other international terrorist organizations. A policy exercise held on the last day of the conference helped reinforce key tenets of effective counterterrorism policy and operations, including the need for sustained, high-level official attention, regional cooperation, and the importance of contingency planning for terrorist incident management and response. (The next Conference is planned for 24-26 June 2002, in Ankara.)
In December, Kyrgyzstan hosted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Bishkek International Conference on Enhancing Security in Central Asia: Strengthening Efforts to Counter Terrorism. The Conference was attended by over 300 high-level participants from over 60 countries and organizations. The Conference concluded that the countries of Central Asia play a critical role in preventing terrorism; enhanced regional cooperation is needed; and terrorism cannot be combated through law enforcement only—social and economic roots of discord also must be addressed and rule of law strengthened. Delegations endorsed a program of action that emphasizes the need for increased coordination and interagency cooperation as well as the need to take steps to prevent illegal activities of persons, groups, or organizations that instigate terrorist acts.
Countries within the region have been taking steps to enhance their common efforts against international terrorism. Fears of an influx of Afghan fighters and refugees as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan spurred cooperative efforts to tighten border security and to combat extremist organizations. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group on the US FTO list that seeks to overthrow the Uzbek Government and create an Islamic state, continued to be a concern. Unlike 1999 and 2000, an anticipated large-scale IMU offensive failed to materialize in 2001, most likely because of better host-government military preparedness and the IMU's participation in the Taliban's summer offensive against the Northern Alliance. There were, however, incidents against local security forces that never were definitively linked to the group. IMU members fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. A large number of IMU fighters, reportedly including their military leader Namangani, were killed at the Kondoz battle in November 2001. The United States and regional governments also continued to monitor the Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic political movement that advocates the practice of pure Islamic doctrine and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia. Despite regional governments' claims, the United States has not found clear links between Hizb ut-Tahrir and terrorist activities. The Eurasian countries also recognized the growing links between terrorism and other criminal enterprises and have taken steps to break the nexus among terrorism, organized crime, trafficking in persons and drugs, and other illicit activities.
Five years after it began meeting as a body to discuss border disputes with China, the Shanghai Forum—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and China—admitted Uzbekistan as a sixth member in June, renamed itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and continued its focus on regional security. Earlier in the year the group laid the groundwork for a counterterrorist center in the Kyrgyzstani capital of Bishkek. Members also signed an agreement at their June summit to cooperate against "terrorism, ethnic separatism, and religious extremism."
Three Central Asian states—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan—along with Russia, Belarus, and Armenia, agreed at a CIS collective-security summit in May to create a rapid-reaction force to respond to regional threats, including terrorism and Islamic extremism. The headquarters of the force is to be based in Bishkek. Each of the three Central Asian states and Russia agreed to train a battalion that, if requested by a member state, would deploy to meet regional threats. The security chiefs of these states also met in Dushanbe in October to discuss strengthening border security.
Several Central Asian states concluded counterterrorism or border security agreements in 2001. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan agreed to speed up the exchange of information between their frontier forces, and Kazakhstan signed an agreement with Turkmenistan on border security in July. Continuing past cooperation, in December, Kyrgyzstan and Russia signed an agreement to exchange counterterrorism information. In the summer, the Kyrgyzstani parliament refused to ratify a border accord with Uzbekistan against international terrorism, citing, among other reasons, Uzbekistan's decision unilaterally to mine its border with Kyrgyzstan in the fall of 2000. The Uzbek mines on the undemarcated Kyrgyzstani border have been blamed for at least two dozen civilian deaths. The Uzbeks also unilaterally have mined the undemarcated border with Tajikistan, resulting in deaths as well.
Azerbaijan and the United States have a good record of cooperation on counterterrorism issues that predates the September 11 attacks. Azerbaijan assisted in the investigation of the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings and has cooperated with the US Embassy in Baku against terrorist threats to the mission. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Government of Azerbaijan expressed unqualified support for the United States and offered "whatever means necessary" to the US-led antiterrorism coalition. To date, Azerbaijan has granted blanket overflight clearance, offered the use of bases, and engaged in information sharing and law-enforcement cooperation.
Azerbaijan also has provided strong political support to the United States. In a ceremony at the US Ambassador's residence on 11 December, President Aliyev reiterated his intention to support all measures taken by the United States in the fight against international terrorism. In early October, the parliament voted to ratify the UN Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, bringing to eight the number of international counterterrorism conventions to which Azerbaijan is a party.
While Azerbaijan previously had been a route for international mujahidin with ties to terrorist organizations seeking to move men, money, and materiel throughout the Caucasus, Baku stepped up its efforts to curb the international logistics networks supporting the mujahidin in Chechnya, and has effectively reduced their presence and hampered their activities. Azerbaijan has taken steps to combat terrorist financing. It has made a concerted effort to identify possible terrorist-related funding by distributing lists of suspected terrorist groups and individuals to local banks. In August, Azerbaijani law enforcement arrested six members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir terrorist group who were put on trial in early 2002. Members of Jayshullah, an indigenous terrorist group, who were arrested in 1999 and tried in 2000, remain in prison. In December 2001, Azerbaijani authorities revoked the registration of the local branch of the Kuwait Society for the Revival of the Islamic Heritage, an Islamic nongovernmental organization (NGO) suspected of supporting terrorist groups. After the September 11 attacks, Azerbaijan increased patrols along its southern land and maritime borders with Iran and detained several persons crossing the border illegally. It has deported at least six persons with suspected ties to terrorists, including three to Saudi Arabia and three to Egypt. The Department of Aviation Security increased security at Baku's Bina Airport and has implemented International Civil Aviation Organization recommendations on aviation security.
The Georgian Government condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks and supports the international Coalition's fight against terrorism. Immediately following the attacks, the Georgian border guard troops along the border with Russia went on high alert to monitor the passage of potential terrorists in the area. In early October, Tbilisi offered the United States the use of its airfields and airspace.
Georgia continued to face spillover violence from the Chechen conflict, including a short period of fighting in the separatist region of Abkhazia and bombings by aircraft from Russian territory on Georgia under the guise of antiterrorist operations. Like Azerbaijan, Georgia also contended with international mujahidin using Georgia as a conduit for financial and logistic support for the mujahidin and Chechen fighters. The Georgian Government has not been able to establish effective control over the eastern part of the country. In early October, Georgian authorities extradited 13 Chechen guerrillas to Russia, moving closer to cooperation with Russia. President Shevardnadze in November promised to cooperate with Russia in apprehending Chechen separatist fighters and foreign mujahidin in the Pankisi Gorge—a region in northern Georgia that Russian authorities accuse Georgia of allowing Chechen terrorists to use as a safehaven—if Moscow furnishes T'blisi with concrete information on their whereabouts and alleged wrongdoing. The United States has provided training and other assistance to help Georgian authorities implement tighter counterterrorism controls in problem areas.
Kidnappings continued to be a problem in Georgia. Two Spanish businessmen who were kidnapped on 30 November 2000 and held near the Pankisi Gorge were released on 8 December 2001. A Japanese journalist was taken hostage in the Pankisi Gorge in August and released on 9 December.
President Nazarbayev allied Kazakhstan with the United States after September 11 and backed the US-led Coalition. Permission was given for overflights, increased intelligence sharing, and for Coalition aircraft to be based in the country. Nazarbayev said publicly that Kazakhstan is "ready to fulfill its obligations stemming from UN resolutions and agreements with the United States" in the Coalition against terrorism. Kazakhstan also declared its intent to ratify international conventions on terrorism, with priority given to the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and has taken steps to block the assets of terrorists.
Kazakhstan stepped up security on its southern borders during 2001 in response to Islamic extremist incursions into neighboring states. The Government set up a special military district to help cover the sparsely populated southern flank of the country. It continued efforts to prevent the spread of Islamic militant groups, including actions such as detaining individuals for distributing leaflets for the Islamic militant group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, calling for the violent overthrow of the Kazakhstan Government.
Kyrgyzstan offered a wide range of assistance in the fight against terrorism, including the use of Kyrgyzstani facilities for humanitarian support and combat operations. In December, the Kyrgyzstani parliament ratified a Status of Forces Agreement which allows basing US military forces at Manas International Airport in Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan also hosted in Bishkek in December an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on enhancing security and stability in Central Asia that was attended by some 60 countries and organizations. Kyrgyzstan has also taken steps to block the assets of terrorists.
Kyrgyzstan experienced several Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) incursions in 1999 and 2000. As a result, it created the Southern Group of Forces comprising approximately six thousand troops from various components of the armed forces that deploy in the southern Batken Oblasty to defend against renewed IMU incursions. In May, a military court handed down death sentences against two foreign nationals for taking part in IMU activity in 2000. One defendant was convicted of kidnapping in connection with militants who took four US mountain climbers hostage in Kyrgyzstan.
Following the terrorist crimes of September 11, counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and Russia grew to unprecedented and invaluable levels in multiple areas—political, economic, law enforcement, intelligence, and military. Areas of common interest ranged from sharing financial intelligence to identifying and blocking terrorist assets to agreements on overflights by US military aircraft involved in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The Russians offered search-and-rescue assistance in support of the OEF efforts in Afghanistan. Both countries have underscored the value of their extensive exchange of counterterrorism information and their enhanced ability to collect and exploit threat information. A mutual interest in fighting criminal activities that support or facilitate terrorism resulted in better-coordinated approaches to border control, counternarcotics efforts, and immigration controls in Central Asia.
Much of the collaboration was through multilateral fora—such as the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Group of Eight (G-8)—and international efforts as part of the Coalition against terrorism with global reach. The United States-Russia Working Group on Afghanistan was the central bilateral forum for addressing terrorism and terrorism-related issues, including terrorist financing, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism, and the nexus between terrorism, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity.
On 24 September, President Putin publicly laid out a broad program of cooperation with, and support for, US counterterrorism efforts. In early October, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov stated that Russia supports any efforts designed to end international terrorism. In mid-October, the Justice Ministry amended terrorism laws to include penalties for legal entities that finance terrorist activity.
Russia was the site of a number of terrorist events in 2001, many connected to the ongoing insurgency and instability in Chechnya. The current conflict, which began in late summer 1999, has been characterized by widespread destruction, displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and accusations of human-rights abuses by Russian servicemen and various rebel factions. One rebel faction, which consists of both Chechen and foreign—predominantly Arabic—mujahidin fighters, is connected to international Islamic terrorists and has used terrorist methods. Russian forces continue to conduct operations against Chechen fighters but also draw heavy criticism from human-rights groups over credible reports of human-rights violations. On 9 January, US aid worker Kenneth Gluck was kidnapped while traveling in Chechnya; he was released on 6 February. The kidnapping was attributed to an Arab mujahidin commander. Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev, however, accepted overall responsibility and apologized, saying it was a "misunderstanding."
Russia also has experienced numerous other kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations, which may be attributed to either terrorists or criminals. On 5 February a bomb exploded in Moscow's Byelorusskaya metro station wounding nine persons. On 15 March three Chechen men armed with knives commandeered a Russian charter flight soon after it departed Istanbul for Moscow, demanding that the pilots divert the plane to an Islamic country. Saudi special forces stormed the plane upon its arrival in the country, arresting two of the hijackers, while the third hijacker, one crewmember, and one passenger were killed during the rescue. On 24 March three car bombs exploded in Stavropol, one in a busy market and two in front of police stations, killing at least 20 persons and wounding almost 100. In December, a Russian court sentenced five persons to prison terms ranging from nine to 15 years for involvement in two apartment bombings in 1999 in Moscow that killed more than 200 persons.
Tajikistan, which strongly opposed the Taliban since it took power, expressed its support without reservations for Coalition actions in Afghanistan and continues to offer tangible assistance to operations in the area. Security along the Afghan border was reinforced after September 11. President Rahmonov and all sides of his government, including the opposition, offered full support at all levels in the fight against terrorism and invited US forces to use Tajik airbases for offensive operations against Afghanistan. More broadly, Tajikistan has made a commitment to cooperate with the United States on a range of related issues, including the proliferation of CBRN, illicit trafficking in weapons and drugs, and preventing the funding of terrorist activities.
Incidents of domestic terrorism continued in 2001, including armed clashes, murders of government officials, and hostage taking. The United States issued a travel warning for Tajikistan in May. Three senior Tajik officials were murdered during the year, including the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Culture. In April, an armed group seized several policemen in eastern Tajikistan attempting to negotiate the release of their group members from prison; three policemen were found dead several days later. In June, armed men at a roadblock kidnapped 15 persons, including a US citizen and two German nationals belonging to a German nongovernmental organization for three days. The kidnappers were lower- level former combatants in the Tajik civil war who were not included in the 1997 Peace Accord. After the hostages were released, due to pressure by the former opposition now serving in government, Government troops launched a military operation, which killed at least sixty of the combatants and the group's leader.
The Supreme Court in Tajikistan sentenced two Madesh students to death in May for bombing a Korean Protestant church in Dushanbe in October 2000; nine persons died, and more than 30 were injured in the attack. While the Church asked that these sentences be commuted, the students were executed in 2001. The Court also sentenced several members of the Islamic political group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, to prison terms. More than 100 members of the group were arrested in 2001.
Uzbekistan, which already worked closely with the United States on security and counterterrorism programs before September 11, has played an important role in supporting the Coalition against terrorism. In October, the United States and Uzbekistan signed an agreement to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism by allowing the United States to use Uzbek airspace and an air base for humanitarian purposes. In December, to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan reopened the Friendship Bridge, which had been closed for several years. Tashkent has issued blocking orders on terrorist assets, signed the UN Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and says that it is a "full-fledged" party to all UN antiterrorism conventions.
Uzbekistan experienced no significant terrorist incidents in 2001 but continued actively to pursue and detain suspected Islamic extremists. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) participated in combat against US-allied Northern Alliance forces during the early stages of the war against terrorism, particularly in the area of Kunduz. Although the IMU suffered significant losses during this campaign, there is information that the IMU may still maintain a capability to infiltrate into Uzbekistan for possible attacks. Uzbekistan continued to confront increased Hizb ut-Tahrir activity. In October, the group distributed leaflets claiming that the United States and Britain have declared war on Islam and urged Muslims to resist Uzbekistan's support for the US-led Coalition.