After several years of relative peace in Central Asia and southern Russia, Islamic extremist movements have become more active in Russia and in Central and South Asia, threatening stability in the region. Although numerous factors might account for the upsurge in activity, several of these movements appear to have connections to the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These linkages raise questions about whether the United States, as part of a broader effort to promote peace and stability in the region, should continue to engage the Taliban regime, or strongly confront it. This report will be updated as events warrant.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has raised a number of serious issues and choices for the United States. The train of events seem likely to have an important influence on overall American foreign policy in the 1980s. Reassessment of Soviet motives and of U.S. roles in the world are already in progress. Emerging American attitudes, in turn, will shape more specific policy decisions on several issues, which this issue brief discusses.
The United States has charged that the Soviet Union is implicated in the use of chemical weapons in Afghanistan and of chemical and toxin weapons, including the toxin known as "Yellow Rain," in Laos and Kampuchea (Cambodia). These charges raise two significant sets of issues: First, issues surrounding the evidence that has been presented to show: (a) that such weapons have been used and (b) that the Soviet Union is implicated in this use. Second, issues connected with the implications of Soviet involvement, if proven, in chemical and toxin warfare.