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Armed conflict and religious education in Tajikistan

In a move aimed at punishing potentially naughty children citizens, the government of Tajikistan is trying to get its students studying abroad at religious schools to return home. Fearing a politically and religiously coupled radicalization against its authority, the Tajik state stepped up the conflict by blocking websites supposedly critical of the government and armed forces. AFP reports that the blockage:

comes after Tajik Defence Minister General Sherali Khairullayev accused local media at the start of the month of supporting the Islamist militants.

He said that journalists' coverage had been one-sided and focused solely on alleged shortcomings of the armed forces. 'They do not ask who has carried out a[n] act of terror, on whose orders,' he complained.

The broad backlash follows a series of attacks carried out inside this Central Asian state by what the government suspects are radicalized Muslim elements. In recent weeks, scores of government soldiers have died, some in unclear circumstances, but clearly linked to fighting operations in the particularly volatile Rasht region of Tajikistan.

Apparently, the state does not want to slide back into a repeat of civil war which ravished the country during the 90's and pitted the current government, backed by Russia, against a more diverse opposition of Muslim fighters and non-religiously affiliated resistance, at least partly based in Afghanistan at the time.

While there have been reforms in the country allowing political opposition, there are still problems with the political will and administration in carrying them out; thus the recent chaos reflects what seems like a still non-placated opposition which stems, in part, from the authoritarian and non-inclusive tendencies of the current government.  

For the poorest of the post-Soviet Central Asian republics, the prospect of armed conflict is a tremendous expense -- both economically and politically -- that Tajikistan truly cannot afford and would be a setback to any nascent post-war progress that may have been acheived.  

STR/AFP/Getty Images

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Letter from the Editor: Welcome November 2010

There's change, and then there's really big change, of the earth-shattering type. The November issue of Foreign Policy brings you meditations on both. In the coming weeks, U.S. President Barack Obama is likely to find his job that much harder, with the unwelcome change of a significantly more Republican Congress than the one he has dealt with so far -- and the inevitable consequences for how he steers America's course in the world. But there's also opportunity for Obama amid the politicking, which is why this issue features a presidential Plan B: 14 ways for him to seize the moment, by leading thinkers such as economics guru Nouriel Roubini, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, and climate-change prophet James Hansen. They came up with an array of creative ways for Obama to hit his own reset button, from a global-warming plan of attack that might be genuinely politically popular to specific proposals for avoiding another plunge into global recession. We also consulted historian Robert Dallek, whose bestselling chronicles of America's 20th-century leaders have made him an expert on the tyrannical power of a few misguided metaphors when it comes to presidents trying to make tough decisions about war and peace. His must-read essay, "The Tyranny of Metaphor," starts on page 78.