08.03.2023 Author: Vladimir Platov

What did the new US Ambassador, Manuel Micaller, Jr., bring to Tajikistan?

While Tajikistan, one of the five Central Asian (CA) states, is not a significant trade and investment partner for the US due to the size of its economy and its geographical isolation, it remains nonetheless a unique and crucial springboard for Washington to counter Russia and China.

American interest in Tajikistan stems primarily from the country’s proximity to Afghanistan and the fact that Tajikistan has the longest border with Afghanistan in the post-Soviet space, 1,300 kilometers. Furthermore, Tajiks are Afghanistan’s second-largest ethnic group. After the shameful withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan in August 2021, including the loss of control over the flow of illegal drugs from which not only the American army enriched itself in the US, this “Afghan factor” has become of great importance for Washington.

Another important factor in Washington’s growing hostility toward Russia in that country is the presence of Russia’s largest foreign military facility, the 201st Military Base, which clearly contradicts the US own interest in increasing its military presence not only in Tajikistan but throughout the Central Asian region. Under the guise of providing security against the Taliban (a group banned in the Russian Federation), the US started to advocate for the establishment of military bases in Afghanistan’s neighboring nations over the past year, particularly in Tajikistan, despite the opposition of the Central Asian leaders to such a move.

Aside from the military aspect, Washington has recently been actively seeking to expand a network of pro-Western NGOs, so-called “independent media,” and activists in Central Asia, particularly through the American agency USAID (the agency is banned in Russia), promoting projects in education, health, and agriculture. The US hopes that by doing so, it will not only gain a foothold in Tajikistan, but will also establish a stable pro-American lobby there. The NGOs drew “qualified Western personnel” with experience, among other things, in implementing “color revolutions,” as well as local organizations ranging from news agencies to law firms.

Thousands of such NGOs existed in Tajikistan until recently, interfering in internal processes and primarily promoting US foreign policy interests. With their help, Washington, as well as a number of other countries, attempted to implement the Pentagon’s “coercive power” (coercive power) strategy in Tajikistan, which included a comprehensive application of financial sanctions and aggressive online operations against the “target country,” as well as support for the political opposition and the threat of military force. Attempts were made, in particular, to combine social protests with “revolutionary” jihad and even the involvement of insurgent criminal elements. Washington clearly expected Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance Party (banned in the Russian Federation), to attend such events and even to lead the political opposition. And it was planned to involve the “Pamiri leaders,” as some American media outlets referred to drug dealers in Gorno-Badakhshan, in the implementation of a criminal insurgency to support the militants of fugitive Tajik Special Forces Commander Gulmurod Khalimov and the terrorist group DAESH, which is prohibited in Russia.

Being well aware of the real threat to national security posed by the US policy of mass implantation of NGOs, which has been confirmed in particular by a series of “color revolutions,” the Tajik government has recently significantly tightened legislation concerning NGOs and is now consistently strengthening state control over this sphere and taking measures to prevent them from destabilizing the situation within the state. As a result, the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan closed down approximately 500 pro-Western non-governmental social organizations in 2022 alone, and another 138 NGOs a year earlier.

A very important tool and organizer of subversive activities for Washington has always been the careful selection of US ambassadors, who should have above all the necessary training in military-strategic activities and the conduct of covert operations of US intelligence agencies. John Mark Pommersheim, who arrived in Tajikistan in March 2019 as the new US ambassador and who was at the time among the State Department’s “top specialists” not only on Russia, but who also received a US Defense Department fellowship and had worked for the United States Information Agency (USIA) in the 1980s, became just that. In this regard, he was given a task to control the processes in Dushanbe and use Tajikistan as a springboard to have a destructive influence on both Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which are strategic adversaries of Washington. In particular, by controlling or destabilizing the situation in Central Asia, Washington planned to destroy the whole concept of the Chinese New Silk Road, which provides for reorientation of trade of the Celestial Empire and Europe from sea routes to land routes, reduce to a minimum the export of Central Asian energy resources to China, influence the situation in the Muslim-populated Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. The destabilization and radicalization of Central Asia using the “groundwork” in Afghanistan was clearly seen as a way to create an immediate threat to Russia.

However, the overly decent and cultured father of a large family and Pushkin scholar, Ambassador John Mark Pommersheim, clearly failed to cope with the tasks previously outlined to him by Washington to undermine the situation in the country and prepare the conditions for a “color revolution”. So the White House decided to quickly replace him on February 14 with the “new energetic” Manuel P. Micaller Jr., who looked more like a military or intelligence officer than a diplomat. He holds a master’s degree from the National Defense University, in keeping with the now-established tradition of US military ambassadors. According to the announcement of the US Embassy about his visit to Dushanbe, Micaller “has deep experience in working in Central Asia, is competent enough in the direction and strengthening of the American-Tajik relations” and knows Russian and Tajik languages. He previously tried to impose his business projects on Tajikistan in his previous work as economic advisor to the US ambassador, so it is possible that one of his tasks will be all kinds of obstacles to the integration processes within the EAEC. In his foreign service, Micaller has already demonstrated his “specific interest” to the RF and the PRC, in particular, when he worked in Nepal, Mongolia and India, trying to use their sometimes-critical sentiments towards the PRC. So it is not surprising that a similar “dirty work” to oppose and restrain the economic cooperation of Central Asian countries with Russia and China in Tajikistan will be done by Micaller here as well, but more aggressively than by the previous US ambassador Pommersheim who failed to do.

It is noteworthy that such an urgent “rotation of US ambassadors” has been conducted by Washington in recent months not only in Tajikistan but also in several other countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. And this clearly indicates the intention of the United States to give additional “impetus” to subversive actions against Russia and China in these regions in the very near future.

However, this is already a separate topic, which will be touched upon in the nearest publications.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.