Kambarov, a Fulbright Scholar and a Police Foundation International Fellow, laid out the challenges faced by police in Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Central Asian states in an Ideas in International Policing lecture at the Foundation offices Tuesday.
For the past few years, the national Department 10 police force of the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry and local police have seen an upswing in attacks and demonstrations from extremist groups based inside and outside of Kyrgyzstan. Kidnappings and attacks on local police have been perpetrated by outside radical Islamic groups like the Islamic Jihad Union and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – whose members have trained and operated in Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan, Kambarov said.
They have been joined by several local radical groups which have also increased their activities, he said. The base of operations for these groups is the Fergana Valley, which overlaps Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and allows the groups to escape across borders after attacks. The valley is home to some of the most extreme religious groups, and provides a recruiting ground for disgruntled youth from other sections of Kyrgyzstan.
The group leaders are charismatic and actively recruit young people in schools, mosques and even prisons, Kambarov said. They receive financial and ideological support from an umbrella organization – Hizbut Tahrir – which formally disavows violence but supports replacing the Central Asian governments with “caliphates.”
Faced with this growing problem, Kambarov said the Kyrgyz government forces lack training in theology and need a more scientific approach to targeting resources. The government has been compelled to pull in all police forces to counter demonstrations because of political instability, leaving the extremists free to conduct their activities, he said.
He recommends that the government provide better training and ensure more cooperation between state agencies. The police forces also need to reduce nepotism and corruption to win public support and counter the influence of extremists. Finally, the agencies need to work with mainstream Islamic groups and mosques to monitor and stem the growth of the extremists.
A recording of the Ideas in International Policing lecture will be available soon on the Police Foundation website.