Date of Award

Fall 11-15-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Interdisciplinary Program


James W. Warhola

Second Committee Member

James Settele

Third Committee Member

Seth Singleton

Additional Committee Members

Mario Teisl

Sharon Morris


This research presents analysis for identifying common risk and resilience factors that contributed to or hindered Salafi jihadi mobilization of citizens of Central Asia and the South Caucasus and examines the extent to which these factors had differing internal and external outcomes on Salafi jihadi mobilization. Three levels of analysis provide examination of regime characteristics, behavior of jihadi organizations that mobilized individuals from the region, and case studies through interviews in communities affected by jihadi mobilization in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia.

This research reveals that early distinctions in Islamist subnational struggles had oriented violence towards governments within Central Asia, while neighboring struggles in the North Caucasus oriented jihadi participants from Azerbaijan and Georgia largely towards external authorities in the north. Further, this research suggests that the dual phenomena of domestic jihadi manifestation of violence and foreign fighter mobilization to external theatres are inversely related and affected by the patterns of jihadi organizational displacement, co-location with larger entities engaged in conflict abroad, and expansion of organizations seeking new members within these external jihadi theatres. Additionally, state behavior, including state coercive capacity, solidification of elite cooperation, and regime legitimation through the construction of well-curated national identities, has served as a strengthening bulwark against jihadi organizational effectiveness internally in the region. Yet, interview data from this study indicates that state behavior has also engendered notable grievances among ethnic and religious minority populations in areas of jihadi foreign fighter origin. Despite these society-fragmenting perceptions of injustice, prejudice, and lack of trust in governance, grievances have not galvanized into viable sustained internal jihadi action throughout the region. Rather, this research suggests that punitive state pressures on outgroups and patterns of economic migration across the entire population have contributed to a venting process that limits the potential manpower available for internal violent agendas. Yet this same venting process presents some individuals avenues for jihadi mobilization, strengthening the recruitment possibilities for offshore jihadi organizations.