The countries of Central Asia have not been immune to the global forces that have been stimulating religiously inspired violence, as some of its citizens participate in international jihadist groups while others have committed locally organised terrorist actions. But at the same time, none of these countries have demonstrated that they are at profound or disproportionate risk, one which well-trained national and local security forces would be incapable of countering.  And this is true even of those Central Asian states that border on Afghanistan.

So far, policy-makers in Central Asia have failed to find strategies that can both effectively identify and neutralize terrorists before they strike.  One of the main reasons for this is that they are trying to do too much.  They have not been content to merely identify, monitor, and arrest individuals who have had international terrorist training, and any other home grown groups who might have acquired the means to launch terrorist acts.  Instead, they have ventured into the danger-fraught area of “prevention,” seeking to exert much greater control over religious activities within their countries, and have engaged in costly programs designed to “deradicalize” at risk populations.   Such de-radicalization programs, while a potential boon for the “specialists” employed by them, are of unproven benefit, while restrictions on religious practice may not only violate the international human rights of the citizens of these countries, but they can also serve as a source of radicalization fostering various forms of political opposition that the governments of these governments are seeking to r

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the original author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, its co-founders, or its staff members.

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Martha Brill Olcott has been a prolific author of works on all aspects of the political, social, and economic affairs in Central Asia, and the geopolitical environment of the region for over three decades. While she is best known for her writings on Kazakhstan (The Kazakhs and Kazakhstan Unfulfilled Promise), Olcott has been studying questions of religion, identity and politics in Central Asia and the Muslim “world” more generally for over forty years. Her book In the Whirlwind of Jihad (Brookings Institution Press, 2012) is the culmination of this research. Olcott is also a Visiting Professor at James Madison College, Michigan State University. She is also Professor Emerita at Colgate University, where she served as a member of the faculty from 1975-2002. At various times in her career Olcott has also served as a consultant or advisor for the U.S. government and various international institutions and organizations. These included serving as a Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and filling a 5 year term on the Board of Directors of the Central Asian American Enterprise Fund at the request of President Bill Clinton. She also previously was a senior associate at the Russia Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.