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.
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.
The cotton industry in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan contributes to political repression, economic stagnation, widespread poverty and environmental degradation.
Tajikistan's hard-won peace and stability is at risk. Indeed, the agreement that ended the bloody civil war in 1997 seemed briefly under threat in early 2004 when a series of confrontations between President Emomali Rakhmonov and former warlords sharply increased tensions in the country's murky political life.