The Islamic State’s activities in Afghanistan have been limited, according to a new report issued by the Pentagon. The activities of the extremist organization have, according to the report, been thus far focused on exploration and have not included widespread recruiting or military campaigns. Furthermore, the province in which the report alleges ISIL to be operating is of little strategic importance, and that in order to gain more of a foothold in the country the group would have to expand its operations further. This is uncertain given the presence of the Taliban, which has already engaged in skirmishes with the group and appears intent on preventing it from metastasizing.
One possible motivation for ISIL’s presence in Afghanistan that has been discussed at some length is Afghanistan’s wealth of mineral resources. According US military officials, the country sits atop more than $1 trillion in mineral resources including copper, lithium, rare earth materials and emeralds. The almost complete lack of development makes the industry enticing to a number of parties, although the majority of them are unlikely to assume the risks associated with operating in Afghanistan. The Afghan government, for one, appears at least somewhat preoccupied due to the presence of ISIL, which it claims threatens the country’s mining operations. It is unclear yet altogether possible that the government is using the threat of ISIL to attract further foreign aid, although the presence of ISIL in the country is indisputable.
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- The Chinese government announced that it is investigating a senior Uyghur official for graft in the Xinjiang region. Charges of “discipline violations” were issued by the Chinese government, although the details of these charges have to be disclosed. The individual in question, Alimjan Maimaitiming, is the secretary general of Xinjiang’s regional government.
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit a partially Indian-funded hospital in Tajikistan, making him the first Indian PM to do so. India has a history of investing in Tajikistan, although to a much lesser degree than rival regional investors China and Russia. The visit, to take place on July 12 and 13 of this year, is being labeled by some as an Indian effort to curry favor with the Tajik government, whose own goals have long included attracting investment from each of the regional heavyweights.
- A clash along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border culminated in the death of one Armenian soldier. Armenia’s defense ministry denounced the attack as Azeri aggression, although the attack was denied by Azerbaijan’s defense ministry which refuted the report that there had been a confrontation and that anyone had died.
- A pro-European Union candidate in Moldova appears to have a commanding position in mayoral elections currently being held in Chisinau, Moldova, which at one million inhabitants is the country’s biggest city. Dorin Chirtoaca, the pro-EU candidate, had received an estimated 53% of the vote as the country’s polls prepared to close.
- Radio Free Europe has published some interesting coverage of Russian soft power in Central Asia. The new piece explores Russia’s use of various forms of media to influence the populations of various Central Asia countries. Sputnik, a Russian state-run media outlet, has ongoing operations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and, according to one pundit, has employed a number of highly respected local journalists to increase its popularity in those countries. The piece also emphasizes how low of a priority the region has become for the West, which it accuses of exercising “too soft” power.