Intel Report: Fergana Valley and Regional Security

Fergana Valley Map_SpecialEurasia
Risk Assessment and Map of the Fergana Valley (Credits: SpecialEurasia Monitoring & Risk Analysis Map)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 42 Issue 5
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi

Executive Summary

The last meeting in Fergana between the heads of the security services of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan accentuated the countries’ desire to cooperate in regional security to face cross-border challenges, such as terrorism and extremism.

While these countries made progress on border demarcation, recent clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and the persistent terrorism threat highlight how the Fergana Valley is inherently unstable because of ethnic tensions, radicalisation, jihadist propaganda, resource competition, and the influence of neighbouring Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.

This report analyses the background, geopolitical scenario, and implications of these developments, with an emphasis on the potential impact on regional stability and the security landscape in the Fergana Valley.

Background Information

On May 6th, 2024, the heads of the special services of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan had a significant meeting in Fergana. They discussed primarily enhancing regional security cooperation and addressing various trans-border threats, such as terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking, and illegal migration.

The parties reached agreements to accelerate border delimitation and demarcation processes, particularly concerning the Kyrgyz-Tajik and Uzbek-Kyrgyz borders.

The day after, on May 7th, 2024, an incident involving the use of firearms occurred on the Kyrgyz-Tajik section of the state border.

The Fergana Valley: Geopolitical Scenario

The Fergana Valley, situated in Central Asia and shared among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, holds considerable geopolitical significance because of its strategic location and abundant natural resources. The converging interests of these Central Asian republics underscore its importance in the Eurasian geopolitical landscape.

Recent border clashes between Tajik and Kyrgyz security forces have highlighted the region’s inherent instability, exacerbated by its multiethnic population of approximately 11 million people and the growing influence of religious radicalisation.

Central Asia faces a multitude of internal political and security challenges, despite its strategic importance as a historical crossroads of trade routes. Issues such as authoritarian governance, corruption, environmental degradation, ethnic diversity, and border disputes contribute to regional instability

Security threats pose a high risk to the Fergana Valley because of its specific geographic and demographic features. Ongoing border disputes between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, which have been historically influenced by Soviet policies, are exacerbating regional tensions.

The valley’s fertile lands and natural resources, including the Syr Darya river, are the main reasons for regional confrontation and foreign interest. Furthermore, the interplay of local organised crime, historical grievances, and ethnic tensions exacerbates the risk of radicalisation and terrorism within the region.

US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan has further exacerbated security concerns in the Fergana Valley. The influx of refugees and migrants into Central Asia poses additional challenges, potentially serving as conduits for the spread of radical Islamic ideologies. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, in particular, have reported increased incidents of terrorism and radicalisation. Tashkent, with its experience of dealing with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, remains vigilant against jihadist threats.

The terrorism threat looms large over the Central Asian republics, exacerbated by the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, which has transformed the country into a ‘safe haven’ for extremist groups. Since August 2021, the activities of the Islamic State Wilayat Khurasan have intensified, accompanied by a surge in jihadist propaganda aimed at recruiting individuals from Central Asia and establishing the group’s foothold in the region.

This escalation poses a significant challenge to the security and stability of the Central Asian nations, highlighting the urgent need for coordinated efforts to counter the spread of extremism and mitigate the risks posed by terrorist activities.

Risk Scenarios

  1. Breakdown in Negotiations and Renewed Border Clashes. The hopeful momentum from the regional security meeting in the Fergana Valley could be short-lived. Disagreements over border delimitation and demarcation processes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan might resurface, leading to a rise in tensions. Nationalistic speeches by political leaders on both sides could inflame public anxieties in the border regions. Social media, rife with misinformation and rumours, could further exacerbate the situation, triggering outbreaks of violence and renewed clashes between security forces. If there is a breakdown in communication and cooperation, it could have serious consequences, including the destabilisation of the delicate security situation in the Fergana Valley and the exploitation of the resulting chaos by terrorist organisations.
  2. Rise of Radicalisation and Extremism. The economic and social challenges plaguing the Fergana Valley, compounded by the influx of Afghan refugees and migrants, could create a breeding ground for the spread of radical ideologies. Local criminal networks and unresolved historical grievances could fuel ethnic tensions, making the population more susceptible to extremist recruitment. A weakening of central governments because of potential internal political struggles could create a power vacuum that extremist groups could exploit to establish a foothold in the region. Increased terrorist activity would disrupt regional security and stability, jeopardising crucial infrastructure projects and deterring foreign investments.
  3. Water Scarcity and Environmental Conflict. Competition for water resources in the Fergana Valley is likely to intensify because of a combination of population growth, climate change, and unsustainable water management practices. Accusations of water theft and hoarding by upstream nations could create friction and raise the possibility of water wars erupting in the region. Environmental degradation, including desertification and land degradation, could further strain relations between the countries and limit agricultural productivity. The economic consequences of water scarcity and environmental damage could exacerbate social unrest, creating a breeding ground for radicalisation and violent extremism.


The Fergana Valley is grappling with a complicated network of security challenges, despite efforts made towards regional cooperation.

Unresolved border disputes, competition for water resources, and the potential for radicalisation fuelled by social and economic hardship pose significant risks.

Mitigating these risks requires sustained regional cooperation, effective border management, and addressing the root causes of social unrest.

Read also | Central Asia: What to Watch in 2024

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