January, 2020

Perceptions and Reality: Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Central Asia and Afghanistan

By: Anna Gusarova
Central Asian approach to counter extremism and terrorism have led to a significant level of securitization, challenging political rights and civil liberties. While strengthening the legitimate use of force to ensure domestic security is necessary, current states' efforts make it difficult to build strategic partnerships in countering violent extremism and terrorism. More importantly, Central Asian counterterrorism cooperation is limited in its capacity and resources as there is no synchronized policy towards combating terrorism and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, a 40-year war has completely erased the boundaries between counterterrorism and peace enforcement.

Peace is essential to the country's reconciliation and reconstruction, so as counterterrorism, if effective and result-oriented, will lead to peace that everyone has become hungry for. In reality, it is very difficult to divide those two parts with international presence and their different approaches to build peace and combat terrorism in Afghanistan.

This paper tries to address the questions that have not been answered properly by both Afghan and Central Asian counterterrorism community. They include understanding of extremism and terrorism, counterterrorism strategies and goals, enemies, terrorist organizations, and level of the threat. Whereas this broad approach to tackle counterterrorism can be doubtful, it is the only way to explore the specific limits of counterterrorism cooperation in a broader region without highlighting and bringing the discussions to importance of peace, big infrastructure projects, regional connectivity that is working properly as desired, and international geopolitical confrontation among the United States, China and Russia in the region. The paper rather seeks to explore the understanding of terrorism, existing narratives and mutual perceptions (or misperceptions) regarding counterterrorism in a post-Taliban Afghanistan and Central Asia, which are facing common insurgency groups and the threat will stay there. Finally, the paper discusses the need to develop whole-of-society approach to combat terrorism through practical counter-terrorism cross-border cooperation and enhancing track two diplomacy to understand what is working and what is not, who poses an immediate threat and how it will be addressed to build resilient to radical ideology societies and nations in the long run.
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