As Russia Raises Alarm On Afghan "Spillover," Tajikistan Complains It's Not Helping
The Russian-led political-military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, gathered this week in Dushanbe to discuss Afghanistan and the potential threat posed by instability there spilling over into Central Asia. And behind the scenes, Tajikistan is reportedly complaining about the failure of some group members -- notably Russia -- to deliver on the promises of military aid that they've made.
The April 2 meeting in Dushnbe gathered the foreign ministers of the CSTO states -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. The group discussed "the necessity of strengthening cooperation of international and regional organizations and increasing their efforts toward providing security in Central Asia in light of the trends developing in Afghanistan," the CSTO said in a statement. The group also discussed implementation of the September 2013 agreemen "On providing aid to the Republic of Tajikistan to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan border," the statement said.
Russia used the occasion to sound the alarm about the gathering threat of Islamist militants in northern Afghanistan. Moscow's ambassador to Dushanbe, Igor Frolov-Lyakin, told newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta that "Taliban fighters are massing in northern Afghanistan on the border with Tajikistan, in Gorno Badakhshan and other provinces, according to reliable sources." He added that there are ISIS cells, "albeit so far small" in the area as well: "how serious their role is now is difficult to say, but nevertheless they are appearing there." (This is somewhat of a retreat from earlier statements by Russian officials; President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to Afghanistan in December gave detailed information about ISIS training camps in northern Afghanistan, but Afghanistan officials quickly denied that.)
But while Russia is talking up the threat to Tajikistan, Dushanbe is complaining that it (along with other CSTO member states) have not fulfilled its obligations to provide aid as promised in the September 2013 agreement, reported the Russian service of Deutsche Welle. DW noted that the agreement called for two phases of military aid: an initial "urgent" provision and then a longer-term one:
But it's April 2015 and only Belarus and Armenia have fulfilled their obligations on the emergency aid. A source in the Tajikistan border service told DW that Minsk immediately allocated equipment to Tajikistan's soldiers -- uniforms, and also protection and survival gear. Armenia bought Tajikistan all-terrain vehicles. The other members of the organization, by all accounts, have given Tajikistan nothing.
There has been some public grumbling in Tajikistan on the slow pace of Russian military aid; last fall an opposition leader complained that "only a tenth" of the military aid promised had been delivered. So there are inconsistent claims (and DW didn't get any comment from Russia) but it seems like whatever the amount, Tajikistan isn't happy with it.
If Russia has in fact been providing aid to the Tajikistan border guards it hasn't been advertising it. It did, however, last month announce that it was reinforcing its own military base in the country with 100 new BTR-82A armored personnel carriers.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.