Militants, militaries and meandering borders – Tajkistan’s got ‘em all and they all made the news this week.
To start, approximately ten suspected militants have been arrested in Tajikistan on suspicion of involvement with Islamic terrorist groups. Six are from a border near Afghanistan and thought to be involved with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, The IMU was formed in 1991, and today is primarily located in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas.
IMU is (obviously) still active in Tajikistan, but it’s been greatly weakened in the past decade thanks to a ban on it in Central Asian countries and the deaths of many members, including the two co-founders, in the Afghan war with US-led Coalition forces. That being said, the group is not one to counted out, as this Foreign Policy article makes clear. IMU is “one of the most militarily capable and media-savvy militant outlets operating in the region.” The goal of the IMU is to “retake all of the region’s lands that were previously ruled by Muslims” – which is to say, the Indian subcontinent – this is obviously a clear geographic shift in priorities, as their name would suggest otherwise, but recent news articles indicate the focus of the IMU has indeed turned away from Central Asia.
The Voice of Russia expressed concern that there will be an increase in terrorist activity as Tajikistan prepares for presidential elections in November. However, given that the elections aren’t likely to change much in Tajikistan, this concern may be one of the lesser problems Tajikistan currently faces.
To understand more about Central Asia and the terrorist threat it faces, I strongly suggest reading Nathan Barrick’s article on Registan about the reality of terrorism in Central Asia.
Next up: military bases in Tajikistan. EurasiaNet’s Josh Kucera detailed an agreement to extend Russia’s lease of a military base, their largest in Central Asia. The lease will be extended (which is what Russia wanted) in return for duty-free fuel shipments to Tajikistan. These shipments will triple the amount of oil products Tajikistan will receive and begins immediately after the agreement is signed. If the agreement goes through, this will (hopefully) alleviate some of the dire fuel shortages Tajikistan experiences (especially as Russia demanded a guarantee that the fuel would not be re-exported). However, nothing is signed and sealed yet. As Kucera points out, before the agreement on the base can be finalized, the two countries still need to discuss “looser regulations on labor migrants from Tajikistan to Russia.”
Finally, a slideshow from the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. Because many of our readers want to ‘see’ Central Asia, this is the best we can do right now – here are some photos of everyday life in the Ferghana valley, a place where Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan blur together and borders are disputed. This can cause issues for those living there, as they navigate what can be a contentious political issue at the borders. We’ve linked to Global Voices, who provides a short caption of the show, but here is the actual slideshow, from Kloop (with Russian Subtitles, but you don’t need to read Russian to enjoy the photos.)