This study examines the relationship between Afghanistan's Taliban regime and Islamic opposition movements in the neighboring Central Asian republics. Despite alarming rhetoric to the contrary from Central Asian political leaders, Taliban ideology is unlikely to spread beyond Afghanistan's borders. The Taliban are an idiosyncratic phenomenon whose anachronistic ideology and violent behavior are more attributable to an obscure tribal code and the sociological repercussions of warfare than to any conventional expression of Islam. Islamic culture in the Central Asian republics was somewhat secularized by 70 years of Soviet domination. The small but growing Islamic opposition is attributable not to the appeal of Taliban-style fundamentalism, but to distinctly domestic factors such as political oppression and economic stagnation. Central Asia's authoritarian regimes are essentially causing the Islamic insurgency they seek to suppress; the Taliban are only significant to the extent that Afghanistan's instability exacerbates ongoing economic and political problems throughout the region. These findings have significant policy implications for the United States and other interested powers, which must deal more urgently with Afghanistan's instability, and should augment military support to Central Asian governments with an equal or greater emphasis on political and economic reform.
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