Tajik Special Forces Commander Cautious on Afghan Peace Prospects
While some foreigners speak optimistically of a post-Taliban Afghanistan, the Afghans' northern neighbors in Tajikistan know how wrenching postwar reconstruction can be. Though Tajikistan's civil war ended in 1997, authorities had continued to fight a variety of renegade groups until the summer of 2001, when security forces killed two leading renegade leaders - Rakhmon Sanginov and his accomplice, Mansour Muakkalov.
The Tajik Interior Ministry's Special Rapid Reaction Brigade, which participated in the operation that wiped out Sanginov's band, has seen its popularity soar. The brigade welcomed 580 new recruits in early December. The unit's commander, General Sukhrob Kasymov, met with journalists towards the end of 2001.
Kasymov, 40, is one of the youngest Tajik generals. A long-standing loyalist to President Imomali Rahmonov, he is making a name for himself in Tajik postwar politics. He spoke with EurasiaNet about his force and his future.
EurasiaNet: How do you assess your brigade's combat record? Could we say that you prepare personnel for countering terrorism? Kasymov: We obtained battle experience during the civil war. In 1994, our brigade dislodged from a gang of foreign mercenaries headed by the odious field commander Khattab, that very Jordanian who later moved to Chechnya. His detachment was called "Black Stork." Nobody spoke of terrorism as a global phenomenon at the time, and the term "Islamic extremism" had only just appeared in the media.
EurasiaNet: What do you think about the manifestation and threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Tajikistan? In particular, what do you think about activities of ideological organizations, such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Kasymov: The civil war was for power. In the beginning of the civil strife [approximately 1989], there was a crisis of power - the people were annoyed, and somebody struck the right chord. If there were no funds, no foreign mercenaries, there wouldn't have been any conflict as such. The illegal parties in question [Hizb-ut-Tahrir] act according to a simple scheme: they [approach] unemployed young people from poor families. Then they say: "Look, somebody has a fancy house, a car