To most Americans , Central Asia means the Kazakh Never Never Land of Sascha Cohen's alter ego. But Borat was shot on location in Romania, while once upon a time , the real Kazakhstan was the Wild West of the Soviet Union-- vast, horsey, dusty, and above all heavily armed. The Evil Empire ran its strategic weapons programs and its nuclear gulag side by side in Kazakh badlands , once home to literally thousands of tons of plutonium and weapons grade uranium.
But then, so were Nevada, New Mexico and Texas- so what ?.
The answer is that while the US government is still very much in charge of the former--and present-- nuclear weapons facilities in our none too wild west, The Kremlin cut loose Kazakhstan and the half dozen other 'Stans hosting its arsenals a generation ago. Much of the dangerously weaponizable content of those far flung facilities were rounded up with considerable derring-do in the first few years after the Soviet collapse.
Unfortunately , some few tons were not, for the Nunn-Lugar program that was supposed to amply fund the final clean-up petered out a decade ago.
So nobody really knows what was left behind on the reservation- in fact a collection of rust belt industrial complexes , some heavily contaminated with nuclear waste, some of it weaponizable. Nobody much cared until recently- and nobody seems to know what the indigenous Islamic culture might dredge up if the heavy money that never materialized were to come out of Al Qaeda's still deep pockets instead of ours. This is the subject of formidable ex-CIA analyst Robert Scheuer's new essay If enough people read it , it may not come true.
This means you. Because unlike the producers of 24 , Scheuer has been in Bauer's uncomfortable shoes. Neos who elect to reject his message on Iraq because it appears in The American Conservative will find no comfort in Foreign Affairs, just more on how our distraction from Afghanistan has brought undeserved comfort to Al Qaeda , and chaos to Islamabad.