Amid mounting fears about worsening security situation in Afghanistan’s provinces bordering Tajikistan, Radio Free Europe 20 May reported ethnic Turkmens in Shordepe, Balkh, and Qala-e-Zal, Kunduz, are forming armed brigades to protect their villages from Taliban and Islamic State (ISIS) militants. Senior officials mid-month attended China’s high-level Belt and Road forum aimed at developing trade routes, specifically Silk Road Economic Belt initiative seeking to improve transport and energy infrastructure along two broad transport corridors in Central Asia.
Plagued by violence, corruption and economic hardship, and exposed to a long, insecure border with Afghanistan, Tajikistan is under dangerous stress. President Rahmon’s autocratic undermining of the 1997 peace agreement is fostering Islamic radicalisation. As Tajikistan’s growing fragility impacts a brittle region, the country must become a conflict-prevention priority.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
Tajikistan, Central Asia’s poorest state and a key logistical link for international forces in Afghanistan, faces a growing security threat from both local and external rebels.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
Far from being a bulwark against the spread of extremism and violence from Afghanistan, Tajikistan is looking increasingly like its southern neighbour – a weak state that is suffering from a failure of leadership.
Originally published in Internationale Politik
Originally published in New Eastern Europe
Originally published in Esglobal