Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are included in a U.S. immigration service's special watch list of countries whose people should come in for extra scrutiny to make sure they're not terrorists. The list (pdf), of "specially designated countries (SDCs) that have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members" is a fairly crude one, the logic of which seems to be, "if a country has a lot of Muslims, it's a terrorist threat." But even by that standard, the list is curious. It doesn't include other post-Soviet Muslim republics like Kyrgyzstan or Azerbaijan, for example, or countries like China or Russia which have significant numbers of Muslims (which have been known to engage in violent anti-state activities). The U.S. Azeris Network, a pro-Azerbaijan lobbying group, called attention to the list and complained, in the spirit of pan-Turkic solidarity:
It is absolutely incomprehensible how countries such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan could have made it to the DHS ICE SDC list. There are simply no known cases of these countries or their nationals or residents, to “promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members”. Neither current, nor past lists of Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department, has ever included any terrorist organizations from Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan.
This being an Azeri group, they ask why Armenia is not included on the list, citing "a long string of terrorists and terrorist organizations promoted, produced and protected by and in Armenia." (They don't name those alleged terror groups.)
But otherwise, they do have a point. Why are people from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan greater risks than those from Azerbaijan or Kyrgyzstan? The Department of Homeland Security, which created the list, doesn't explain. (Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are included on the list, but at least those countries do have some history of producing "terrorists.")
The designation isn't tremendously significant: it means that people from countries on the list are subject to additional screening if they're already in the custody of the immigration service for some other reason. But still, it's a clumsy move that will do no good in helping U.S. relations with the people and governments of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
UPDATE: Adil Baigurov of the U.S. Azeris Network contacted me after this post went up to let me know that the press release I linked to was in fact from the U.S. Turkic Network, a separate group. He also takes issue with my dismissal of their claims of Armenian terrorism:
while specific cases of Armenian terrorism were not cited, to keep the letter short, but it could include everything from ASALA and its offshoots, to attempted assassination of George W. Bush in Tbilisi by an Armenian, to President Levon Ter Petrosian lobbying his French counterpart to release a convicted Armenian terrorist from French prison as early as possible (and their got their wish), to the Armenia sales of RPGs to Iraq via Iran, that were used against American soldier, and killed Pfc. Matthew Straughter, as well as wounded 3 more soldiers in 2008. It is for this reason that U.S. threatened sanctions against Armenia just a couple of years ago, and DOJ's INS put Armenia on a SDS-like list in 2002 (which under the Armenian lobby's pressure - they do retain and hire lobbyists - they were removed from that US government list after a month). So there are even precedents. There are of course many more cases, and here I have cited only cases recognized by U.S. If I start enumerating criminal cases and allegations from Azerbaijani courts, the list would be much longer. :-)