Staunton, March 30 – Conditions in Tajikistan’s military and police have never been good, and there have already been some high-profile cases where officers who had been serving Dushanbe have gone over to the Islamist rebels. But now, Zarif Shoyev says, there is an increasing probability that this will become a mass phenomenon.
According to the Tajik expert, “all conditions have already been established in Tajikistan for the going over into the ranks of the militants of the Islamic State officers of the law enforcement agencies and the military.” These include cutbacks in benefits, weak educational efforts, and increasing unwillingness to serve the state (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1490823300).
A particular problem that Dushanbe hasn’t figured out how to address, Shoyev says in commentary today, is that police and military personnel more often than others come in contact with and are infected by “extremist propaganda” and increasingly accept the arguments and inducements that the authors of such propaganda offer.
Despite talk about blocking the influx of such propaganda, he continues, Dushanbe has not been able so far to prevent it from becoming ever more widely available and from attracting officers, including senior officers like Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, who defected from the Tajik OMON to the Islamic State two years ago.
Nor has Dushanbe been able to block the flow of young Tajiks, including Tajik soldiers into the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria, Shoyev adds.
The situation is likely to get worse because as a result of budgetary stringencies, Dushanbe has reduced the benefits of the siloviki and made it more difficult for them to get a pension. They now much serve more than twice as long as soldiers in Uzbekistan, and many see service in ISIS as a way to make money for themselves and their families.
There is an additional problem that this propensity creates that Shoyev doesn’t mention but that may be even more important. If Tajik policemen or soldiers suspect that their comrades in arms are getting ready to go over to the enemy, they are likely to be ever less willing to take risks to defend public order.
If that should prove to be the case, then the problems the Tajik analyst points to are likely to feed on themselves and multiply in the coming weeks and months.