As US-led forces gear up to downsize in Afghanistan, Moscow is increasingly worried about the possibility of militants, drugs and instability seeping into Central Asia. This growing concern is pushing the Kremlin to seek a more hands-on role in Central Asian border security.
The greatest security challenge for Russia is Tajikistan, an impoverished country with a porous 1,400-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan. At least six armed clashes between security forces and suspected militants and/or drug traffickers reportedly occurred near the frontier during the first four months of this year. Officials in Dushanbe insist that Islamic militants are using Afghanistan as safe haven in efforts to topple the Tajik government. Independent observers, meanwhile, suspect much of the recent violence is linked to narcotics. Whatever the cause, Moscow is alarmed.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.