​Omelicheva, Mariya Y & Lawrence P Markowitz (2019) Webs of Corruption: Trafficking and Terrorism in Central Asia. NY: Columbia University Press. xii, 220 pp.

​ISBN: 978-0-231-18854-8

Pavel K Baev

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Read more about this book: cup.columbia.edu

​In the expanding research on the 'nexus' between mutating terrorist networks and drug-trafficking, the plain fact that the former need sustained cash flow, for which the latter offers the best available source, is often taken for an undisputable proof of their organic symbiosis. In this logic, Central Asia, with its exposure to the conflict-ridden Afghanistan and rich tradition of drug-trafficking, should be severely affected by terrorism. It is not – and this 'empirical puzzle' (p. 7) constitutes a point of departure for examination of regional peculiarities and re-evaluation of general features of the infamous 'nexus' in this concise and well-researched book. The explanation for the 'puzzle' is found in the role of the state, which engages in and takes control over the drug-trafficking and takes a firm stance against terrorism. Certainly, the states of this region are quite different in this regard and far from unified, so that some state institutions may benefit from the Western funding for countering the drug challenge, and others may employ resources accumulated through rent-harvesting in drug-trafficking for combatting terrorism. The two authors do not deny the existence of the 'nexus' and put much work into investigating and mapping the interactions between the two suspects. Still, they find that even in the areas where their occurrence is generated by similar social causes, drug-trafficking and terrorism tend to co-exist rather then mix and reinforce one another (p. 143). The research traces convincingly the fluidity of criminal interplays and suggests that the profound corruption and criminalization of law enforcement make the states fundamentally weak, so that the 'nexus' may suddenly acquire new quality and potency – and cause state failure.