Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dushanbe Says Moscow Can Prevent ‘Major ISIS Force’ from Coming in from Afghanistan But Officials have Doubts about Blocking Smaller Ones

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 28 – Sources in Tajikistan’s security services say that while their own forces are not capable of blocking ISIS groups or narcotics traffickers from coming into their country from Afghanistan, Russian forces backing Dushanbe are, especially given that ISIS does not want to risk suffering another Syria-like defeat.

            “Nevertheless,” one of these sources tells Nurullo Kurbonov of the Fergana news agency that “one must not dismiss this threat entirely” as smaller groups, involved in both terrorism and the drug trade, are capable of crossing the Tajik-Afghan border and moving more deeply into Tajikistan and beyond (

            This source says that “over the last five to six years,” border defense has been “significantly strengthened,” but Tajik border forces still lack many of the things they need including all terrain vehicles and an air arm.  That means that Dushanbe has no choice but to rely on Russian forces and those of others in the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty.
                After the collapse of the USSR, the defense of the Tajik-Afghan border also collapsed, Kurbonov says. Then, in August 1992, Moscow signed an agreement with Dushanbe to take over control of the border, an agreement reinforced by a May 1993 accord that transferred responsibility to Russian forces almost entirely. 

                More than 10,000 troops were involved, of which 99 percent were draftees, with some 70 percent of the contract soldiers being Tajik citizens, the Fergana reporter continues.  The defense of the border was based first on border troops and then on the soldiers of the 201st Russian motorized rifle division based in Tajikistan. 

            Russia began to transfer portions of the border to Tajik control in 1998, a process that was completed in 2005. During the period 1992 to 2005, there were 530 armed clashes and 1600 attempts to illegally cross the border. According to Kurbonov, 161 Russian border guards were killed and 362 were wounded. 

            These Russian forces claimed to have destroyed “about 3,000 militants and drug dealers,” detained approximately the same number and confiscated “more than 30 tons of narcotics, including 11.4 tones of heroine.” Many Tajiks were upset when the Russians left because they felt that would open the way to more Afghan efforts to cross into their country.

            As the Russians left, Dushanbe sought funds from the US, Europe and Japan to try to build up its own forces.  But siloviki in the Tajik capital say that “foreign help is insufficient.” The country needs more than 1.3 billion US dollars to bring up to international standards its 1344-kilometer-long external border.

            What Dushanbe and many Tajiks are now most worried about is the fact that Islamist groups and drug traffickers are either cooperating closely or in fact are one and the same, a development that because of the corruption those in the drug trade can arrange puts Tajikistan at greater risk of an invasion by Islamist militants.

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