02.10.2021 Author: Valery Kulikov

Who is Responsible for the Escalating Situation between the Taliban and Tajikistan?

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In recent days, various media outlets have pointed to a very noticeable aggravation of the situation on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The border between the two States is more than 1,400 kilometers long. Mutual threats are heard from both sides, and military units are being brought to the border from both sides.

According to reports, the only Afghan terrorist group that includes natives of Tajikistan, Ansorullah (Jamaat Ansorullah, banned in Russia), has taken over the border with Tajikistan, raising the banner of the Taliban (banned in Russia) there. The core of this group consists of representatives of the irreconcilable Tajik opposition who fought in the mid-1990s and left for Afghanistan, unable to find a place in the official power structure or who fled from the reprisals of the Emomali Rahmon regime. Over the years, they have become battle-hardened and have serious support from the West, especially from Britain’s intelligence services. And at any signal from their western sponsors, these militants are ready to conduct any provocative and extremist actions on the other side of the border, using their relatives and compatriots living in Tajikistan to oppose the ruling family of Emomali Rahmon.

According to Tajik media reports, the information about the concentration of militants of the Ansorullah group, banned in Russia and Tajikistan, in the Afghan Moy May village is correct, but the militants are quiet for now, knowing that Russian troops will help Tajikistan if anything happens. And had it not been for the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan, they might have tried to breach the border.

At the same time, cells of another terrorist group, Lashkar-e Mansouri (banned in Russia), which organizes suicide attacks, have been established in Fayzabad, the capital of Afghanistan’s province of Badakhshan. The Lashkar-e Mansouri cell in Badakhshan was established “to repel possible attacks against Taliban units,” the official state Bakhtar News Agency reported.

Taliban officials said they have sent “thousands” of their troops into Afghanistan’s Takhar province, which borders Tajikistan’s Khatlon Region. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid posted photos of military vehicles and men in uniform on his Twitter page on September 25. He stated that “tens of thousands of the Islamic Emirate’s Mansoori Army special forces fighters were deployed in Takhar to address potential security threats and other challenges.” “The Islamic Emirate’s Mansoori Army” is mostly made up of suicide bombers. In mid-September, the Taliban announced that those troops had entered Badakhshan province.

Earlier, Tajik authorities said they had received information that some Taliban-controlled gangs consisting of Tajiks and Caucasus natives were ready to invade Tajikistan. The Taliban then rejected those reports, saying no group would be allowed to enter from Afghanistan’s territory to the land of neighboring states. But Tajikistan is still skeptical of these Taliban assurances.  Barring an escalation of the situation on the Badakhshan section of the Tajik-Afghan border, the Tajik security forces went on heightened alert.

Analysis of the reasons for the aggravation of the situation on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan shows that the strengthening of the Taliban in the north of Afghanistan and the activation of Ansorullah fighters on the border with Tajikistan began after President Emomali Rahmon announced that he would not recognize the authority of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Among other Central Asian countries, apart from official Dushanbe, no one has so far taken such a tough stance against the new Afghan authorities. In contrast, all other countries in the region are more or less ready to cooperate with them. They are in no hurry to recognize it, but they do not show harsh confrontation either, conducting a certain degree of diplomatic assessment without making sudden moves. Moreover, Dushanbe has yet to find any allies in criticizing the Taliban. Thus, Uzbekistan welcomed the establishment of an interim government in Kabul and expressed its readiness “to develop a constructive dialogue” with it. In an online address to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced the resumption of supplies of electricity, oil products, and other goods to Afghanistan and urged the international community to avoid isolating the country.

As for the President of Tajikistan, in his recent speech from the UN podium, Emomali Rahmon called on the new Afghan authorities to form an inclusive government with the participation of Afghan Tajiks, who, according to various sources, make up 40-46% of the total population of the country. However, the Taliban do not go for an inclusive government.

In addition, the Tajik leader pointed to increased violence against civilians in Afghanistan after the Taliban came to power. And also to the active attempts of various terrorist groups, including DAESH (banned in Russia) and Al-Qaeda (also banned in Russia), to use the unstable situation in this country to strengthen their positions. For these reasons, Emomali Rahmon called the situation in Afghanistan “a serious threat to regional security.”

Abdul Ghani Baradar, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, said in an interview with Al Jazeera television: “Tajikistan is interfering in our affairs. For every action, there is a counteraction.” Although it should be noted that the Taliban have not yet made any real threats against Tajikistan.

Tajik media justify their leader’s actions as stemming from his concern about the possible start of a spiral of civil strife in Afghanistan based on the restrictions the Taliban has imposed on women, ethnic minorities, and political forces. Given that Tajikistan had previously experienced the effects of a civil war influenced by Afghanistan in the 1990s, official Dushanbe clearly fears another destabilization caused by the new authorities in Kabul. The possibility of deterioration of the internal situation in Afghanistan is also indicated by the already emerging serious disagreements in the Taliban leadership in the formation of the new Taliban’s power resistance front.

In addition, Tajik authorities make no secret of their support for the National Resistance Front, the only force fighting the Taliban in Panjsher Province. Several groups of armed men have left Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in Tajikistan, intending to fight against the Taliban on their territory, primarily in the Panjshir Valley area. Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon had earlier announced the mobilization of reserves and reinforced several breakthrough areas on the border with additional army units. However, it is difficult to assess the state of readiness of these units and the generally belligerent statements occasionally heard from Dushanbe. After all, it is one thing to use harsh language at the level of rhetoric and quite another to advocate open confrontation, which Tajikistan is nevertheless unlikely to agree to. Therefore, it is possible to agree with several commentators who believe that the uncompromising approach so far demonstrated by Dushanbe is caused to a certain extent by the desire of Emomali Rahmon and his entourage to consolidate their power by acting as a protector of the Tajiks across the border. They inflame nationalist sentiments and distract their own population from socio-economic problems.

In addition, it should be noted that the recent escalation of the situation in various media regarding the conflict between Dushanbe and Kabul is mainly due to the “efforts” of the puppeteers of Western propaganda, especially from the UK and the USA. It should not be forgotten that the Taliban’s mouthpiece is the Kuwait-based Al Jazeera television company affiliated with the British BBC and thus heavily reliant on the British and American media. This is why one can trace a certain following by Al Jazeera in the footsteps of information campaigns launched in Washington and London and affecting Tajikistan and such structures as the CSTO and SCO, which supports the British project Greater Waziristan, aimed at the dismemberment of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Specifically, according to these British plans, parts of these two countries, called Badakhshan, would unite and organize their Ismaili state, whose head, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, lives in London.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 


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