Retired CIA station chief Scott Uehlinger, host of “The Station Chief” podcast, joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss the New York City truck terror attack, which Marlow noted has put Central Asia on many Americans’ threat radar for the first time.
“Uzbekistan has been a problem relating to terrorism for quite some time,” Uehlinger noted, referencing the April terrorist attack in Stockholm, Sweden carried out by an Uzbek asylum seeker.
“There were also two other attacks involving Uzbeks this year,” he added. “The one January attack in Istanbul, with 39 dead, was also caused by an Uzbek. There were 14 dead in an attack in St. Petersburg, Russia as well. We’re seeing Uzbekistan a lot in the news in Central Asia.”
“It’s a very complicated area,” Uehlinger said. “I really enjoyed working for the CIA in that area, and I was doing a lot of terrorist work. But it’s a very confused area because, for one thing, when the Soviets drew the borders they deliberately drew borders that left large minority groups in each of the countries. In other words, in Uzbekistan there’s a big Tajik minority, and in Takijistan there’s a big Uzbek minority.”
“That’s significant. I mean, these are very different cultures,” he explained. “The Russians did this to keep them in line, because they’ll be too busy hating on each other, rather than worrying about the overarching Soviet Union. That created a lot of ethnic tensions right there. Generally, Central Asians have a slightly different take on Islam than the Middle Eastern states. There’s a lot more shamanism and effects of Mongol culture on them. But they have been pushed to more extremist acts.”
“One reason is because they have had dictatorships basically since ‘91. Since the Soviet Union fell, most of the countries are effective dictatorships, and so a lot of terrorist groups coalesced around anti-government movements. The IMU, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is the most prominent of the terrorist groups. It was always dedicated to getting rid of the president of Uzbekistan, Karimov, who is now dead. He died a natural death, however.” he said.
“So they’ve had terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan perpetrated by the IMU for almost 20 years now. Those groups also went down into Afghanistan, because believe it or not, we talked about the borders – Afghanistan has a large Tajik and Uzbek population as well. They’re not all like ‘Afghans,’ quote-unquote. They’re different groups. The IMU signed an alliance with al-Qaeda, and more recently in 2015 signed an alliance with ISIS,” he noted.
Uehlinger said the governments of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan “keep a pretty tight hold on their population” because they are “deeply concerned about radicalization.”
“They’re pretty repressive,” he said. “On the other hand, their repression is used by groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda as a means of recruiting people. They’ve been able to recruit several thousand fighters who fought even the United States in Iraq and also forces in Afghanistan. That area has contributed about 5,000 foreign fighters, and also into the conflict in Syria there’s been a lot of Central Asians recruited as well. It’s just used by the terrorist groups as yet another recruiting ground for people.”
“The problem is that perhaps the State Department, which is going to be the ones admitting the diversity visa and all, are kind of blind to this – or they just don’t want to see this as being a real problem,” he cautioned.
“So this is something you have to look at when you’re talking about a visa ban to certain countries that have a real problem with terrorism. Now, Uzbekistan was not on the list, nor was Tajikistan, but maybe that’s something we need to look at. And of course, we have to get rid of the diversity visa,” Uehlinger said, referring to President Trump’s travel ban.
“The diversity visa program is just a disaster,” he contended. “The idea of it is to let people in who under other visa programs are not allowed, or have not been coming in in big numbers. Of course, the reason that some nationalities or ethnicities are not coming in in big numbers is because they don’t qualify. In other words, it’s like saying I have a bunch of people who don’t qualify for something, so now I’m going to have a special visa for people who don’t qualify under normal criteria. That’s crazy.”
“What happens is, I know in Uzbekistan they have at least a 50 percent refusal rate. If an Uzbek wants to go to Disneyworld and wants to go to Florida to get a visa, they have a least a 50 percent chance of being told ‘no,’ because they don’t have enough to tie them to Uzbekistan. They’re going to go to Florida and they’re going to live there. So they have at least a 50 percent refusal rate,” he elaborated.
“Not a lot of Uzbeks come into the United States, or Tajiks, under normal visa rules, so the diversity visa lets them in. I read something that said that at least two-thirds of the Uzbeks that come into this country are from the diversity visa, because again the diversity visa has almost no criteria attached to it. There’s no language skills on it, and there’s barely even complications as far as education,” he said.
“Instead of a point-based good immigration system, like a country like Australia or a liberal country like Canada has, we just basically bring people in who are poorly educated, who don’t speak English, and who are going to have a hard time integrating because they simply don’t have job skills. This is why the diversity visa program needs to be eliminated. We have enough immigrants coming in under other programs,” Uehlinger argued.
Uehlinger said Central Asia will always be “a long-simmering pot, there’s always going to be terrorists coming out of that area.”
“Like I said, it’s no coincidence there were four attacks this year and most of them, if not all of them, were caused by Uzbek refugees because admitting these people into your country is unwise. Certainly, background checks must be undertaken. The problem is that in a country like Uzbekistan, background checks are hard to perform, so what we’ve been doing is saying ‘okay, well they can just come in anyway.’ That’s the wrong approach. If we can’t properly vet someone, we should not let them in,” he urged.
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