Russian Troops Back to Afghan Border?
After several years of trying (fruitlessly) to convince Moscow to cough up rent for the Russian bases in his country, Russia has offered Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon even more troops. Might this be an offer he cannot refuse? Viktor Ivanov, the Kremlin's anti-drug tsar, says Moscow could again help protect Tajikistan's long and porous border with Afghanistan, RFE/RL reports. International anti-narcotics officials say the Tajiks could use the help. Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's antidrug agency, met with Rahmon on July 1 and stated that Tajikistan needs help dealing with the increase in narco-trafficking from Afghanistan.Ivanov said it is possible that Russian border guards who patrolled the Tajik-Afghan border until July 2005 could return to Tajikistan if "both sides had such an interest."The Kremlin is eager to blame narcotics traffickers for the June bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan. Almost all Afghan heroin passing through southern Kyrgyzstan first transits Tajikistan. And Rakhmon, like other regional leaders, likely saw a Russian hand in Bishkek when Kurmanbek Bakiyev was unseated this April. It will be interesting to see if he has the "interest."
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.