Tajikistan is tightly controlled by President Emomali Rahmon and a complex system of patronage and political repression are the hallmarks of his rule. The government’s elimination of moderate Islamic opposition risks creating an opening for violent jihadists and the country faces growing instability along its southern border with conflict-plagued Afghanistan. Through field research, analytical reports and advocacy, Crisis Group aims to mitigate Tajikistan’s internal and external threats and inform national and regional stakeholders about the risk of political instability and radicalisation in the face of government policies.
Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Deadliest fighting in years erupted on Kyrgyz-Tajik border, killing dozens and displacing thousands. Local residents in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region and Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region 28 April clashed and pelted stones at each other, injuring many on both sides; incident reportedly related to ongoing dispute over water facility both sides claim. Kyrgyz police in Batken next day reported that gunfire from Tajik side of border targeted military unit in Kok-Tash village, while Tajikistan’s border guards same day claimed Kyrgyz military personnel opened fire on border units; sides 29 April agreed to ceasefire. Tajik authorities reported 15 dead, including six border guards and Kyrgyzstan reported 34 people dead, including three civilians; fighting reportedly injured scores more and displaced thousands. Earlier in month during visit to Vorukh city, Tajik enclave situated inside Kyrgyzstan’s southernmost Batken province, President Rahmon 9 April said talks on delimitation and demarcation of border with Kyrgyzstan have taken place since 2002 and govt had never considered swapping Vorukh for other land; visit and remarks followed reported proposal by senior Kyrgyz official to exchange Vorukh for other land in Batken region that sparked domestic criticism. Russia 1 April resumed regular flights with Tajikistan, paving way for return of Tajik migrants to Russia. Tajik and Russian militaries 19-23 April held joint exercises involving some 50,000 troops.
The prevailing calm in Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan's remote east does not rule out the prospect of a clash between local powerbrokers and Dushanbe authorities. To mitigate the risks of a local flare-up and regional power rivalry, China and Russia should communicate with each other and nudge President Rahmon toward a smooth transition of power.
With his seven-year term set to end in 2020, uncertainty is growing over whether Tajikistan’s long-time ruler President Rahmon will handpick a successor or continue his reign. Growing troubles at home and abroad ensure both scenarios are fraught with risk and must be managed prudently, lest the country become another source of regional disorder.
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.
Originally published in Internationale Politik
Originally published in New Eastern Europe
Originally published in Esglobal