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Shamkhani pointed out "Iran had good capabilities to equip the Tajik national army well," based on earlier agreements for military cooperation, including technical assistance and military equipment. (IRNA, 1842 GMT, 8 Mar 01; FBIS-NES-2001-0308, via World News Connection) Iran and Tajikistan initiated military cooperation in 1998 with a memorandum in Tehran. Shamkhani added that the two countries should cooperate in the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking, which they viewed as serious threats to Central Asia (IRNA, 1842 GMT, 8 Mar 01; FBIS-NES-2001-0308, via World News Connection), and expressed the "hope that the two countries can make joint efforts to fight against regional insecurity and infiltration of transregional forces." (IRNA, 1140 GMT, 9 Mar 01; FBIS-NES-2001-0309, via World News Connection)
According to Khairulloyev, the two countries could not ignore the potential spillover of the Afghan civil war into Central Asia. Iran and Tajikistan support the Northern Alliance, which opposes the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, and is expected to launch another spring offensive.
Some spillover already has occurred. In March, Russian border troops deployed in southern Tajikistan reported fierce fighting, allegedly including shelling of Tajik territory, between Northern Alliance and Taliban forces on the Tajik-Afghan border. (ITAR-TASS, 1140 GMT, 10 Mar 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-0215, via World News Connection) Indeed, recent joint Tajik-Russian military exercises supposedly were responding to the renewed fighting in Afghanistan.
Tajikistan's porous borders and vulnerability to the Taliban remain causes for concern in Central Asia. While containing the Taliban within Afghanistan constitutes a strong incentive for outside involvement in Dushanbe, clearly it is not the only motive. Expanded military cooperation with Tajikistan would provide Iran with a conduit for supplying military assistance and logistics support to the Northern Alliance as well as increase its military influence in the region. ----------------------------
The above story orginially was posted on EurasiaNet partner site, the NIS Observed, a publication of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Peace at Boston University. Chartered in 1988, ISCIP focuses on conflict-prone societies in crisis, especially Russia and other post-Soviet republics, paying particular attention to destabilizing factors of a political, ethnic, and/or international nature. The members of the ISCIP research team contribute biweekly surveys of the developments in their regions which are posted in The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review.