Staunton, Dec. 26 – In response to the Taliban victory in Afghanistan and thus the risk of refugee and drug flows northward and to the deteriorating situation in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region which adjoins Afghanistan, Vladimir Putin has committed to expanding Russia’s military footprint in Tajikistan.
At a meeting in advance of the CIS summit in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin leader told Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon that Moscow would increase the capabilities and possibly the size of the 7,000 Russian troops now stationed at the Russian military base in that country (ura.news/articles/1036283694).
After the meeting, Putin said that “we are actively working to strengthen the defense capabilities of Tajikistan. Recently were carried out necessary deliveries of armaments and other technologies in order to strengthen the armed forces of Tajikistan so that Tajikistan will be able to effectively counter any threats from the outside.”
The Russian military base there, the Russian leader added, “is developing and is one of the significant elements of security in the region.” Putin and Rakhmon have been focusing on this issue in particular since the Taliban victory and the departures of US-led Western forces from Afghanistan.
Sergey Markov, director of the Moscow Institute for Political Research, says the line between Tajikistan and Afghanistan is more a frontier than a border because Tajiks live on both sides of it. “The Tajiks are the second ethnos in Afghanistan after the Pushtuns.” The latter dominate the Taliban, and the Tajiks are “on the brink of revolt” there.
Moreover, northern Afghanistan is where radical Islamists have made their base; and Kabul is now demanding from Moscow and Beijing that they put pressure on the West to unblock Afghan funds in Western banks. The Taliban say that if these two powers do that, Kabul will send in troops to destroy the Islamists.
Such actions, of course, could exacerbate the situation in the Tajik regions, he continues, leading to an intensification of the revolt and greater refugee and drug flows over the frontier into Tajikistan where the two would likely combine to weaken the Tajik state’s hold on the Gorno-Badakhshan.
As a result of these developments, Markov says, “Tajikistan is now the first country which may experience on itself all the consequences of the Taliban coing to power. While there are as yet no clashes at the border, no one can exclude the possibility that they will occur in 2022.” Russia is positioning itself to deal with that risk.