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Tajikistan Plans Second Line of Defence on Afghan Border

Rising instability in northern Afghanistan prompts security rethink.
By Galim Faskhutdinov











The Taleban’s growing strength in northeast Afghanistan has forced Tajikistan to upgrade border defence arrangements. 

The 16,000 armed border guards who patrol some 1,300 kilometres of frontier with Afghanistan will now be supported by the army, which will form a second line of defence to repel any incursions. This second line can provide artillery and air support for the lightly-armed border guards.

Unlike Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, both of which border on Afghanistan, Tajikistan would be able to call on direct Russian military assistance in an emergency. A 7,000-strong Russian army division has been stationed here since Soviet times, and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Moscow-backed defence bloc, has promised to send a rapid-reaction force of 22,000 men should the situation require that.  

Taleban forces and allies reportedly including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) captured the major northeastern town of Kunduz in late September, holding it for a few days until they withdrew as Afghan military reinforcements arrived. (See For Tajikistan, Kunduz Battles Too Close for Comfort.)

“The way two major battalions based in Kunduz dropped everything and ran was a great betrayal,” Khudoiberdy Kholiknazarov, head of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Tajikistan, told IWPR. “We need to be very careful. The situation on the Tajik-Afghan border could deteriorate.”

The Afghan conflict has evolved in two ways that are of concern to Central Asian governments – first, the shift in focus from the Pashtun-majority south to northern parts of the country; and second, the emergence of militant forces linked to Islamic State – the IMU recently pledged allegiance to the group.

“Terrorist groups located in Afghanistan have previously been under the Taleban’s wing, and hence presented less of a threat because the Taleban project is mainly limited to Afghanistan,” political scientist Abdullo Rahnamo told IWPR. “Now the terror groups active in northern Afghanistan are steadily falling under the influence of Islamic State, which is different in that the concept is transnational, global, unlike the Taleban. Second. Islamic State is making active use of new recruitment and propaganda channels, including media. And third, Islamic State is in a fairly strong financial position compared with the Taleban.

“Hence, this new situation in the north of Afghanistan is global in nature. The threat is acquiring different proportions.”

Galim Faskhutdinov is a radio journalist in Tajikistan.

This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union, and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.


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