The success of the Pakistan-trained fundamentalist Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan has sharpened divisions among the former Soviet states of Central Asia. The “northern alliance” of government forces in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan receives Russian support against the Taliban, and Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, backed by Russia’s foreign ministry, claims the Taliban plan to annex Samarkand and Bukhara. To the east, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan are building a more cooperative relationship with the Taliban. Turkmenistan, in particular, has a common interest with Afghanistan and Pakistan in pipeline projects that would reach world markets without passing through Russian territory.

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