Central Asia is at the centre of two new initiatives by China and Russia that run against a longstanding economic vision of the US.
Russia is pursuing influence in Central Asia and competing with the US. Afghanistan offers it a chance to do both.
With several terror attacks committed by Uzbeks abroad in 2017, one of the world's harshest regimes is coming under scrutiny.
Migration may help to pay Western pensions, but life is hard for those left behind.
China's One Belt, One Road initiative is holding international summit in Beijing, but no Western leaders have said they are coming yet.
The jailing of the two men shows the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev well understands that it can no longer underestimate the power of new forms of civic activism.
An abundance of natural resources has helped Kazakhstan attract billions in investments. Despite its booming economy, the government is unlikely to move towards democracy any time soon.
Central Asia's most populous country is stagnant and repressive, but its two massive neighbours want in now Islam Karimov is gone.
Tajikistan, a longstanding human rights violator, has been cracking down harshly on what's left of its political opposition.
Islamic State has been spreading its influence beyond the Middle East – and Central Asia could be in the firing line.
In seeking to link IS to earlier Islamic movements, Western commentators have associated the jihadist group with the medieval Ismailis, made famous in Europe by returning Crusaders as the Assassins.