Tajikistan to develop UN peacekeepers, with American help
U.S. Central Command has laid out some of its expanding military aid programs with Tajikistan, which includes a new training center at Karatog and the apparent creation of a UN-ready peacekeeping unit. Obviously concerned about what can come across the border from Afghanistan, the U.S. is focusing its training on counterterrorism and counternarcotics:
Once the National Training Center is complete, Tajik forces will use it to build their counterterrorism and counternarcotics capabilities. American and Tajik troops will also establish an English language laboratory at the training center to increase domestic language capacity. Language instructors from the U.S. Defense Language Institute began hosting the first of two 16-week courses on English proficiency in April.
The U.S. is also helping to build border posts and is giving Tajikistan a $1.6 million “Mini-Minewolf” mechanical demining machine.
Most intriguing, though, is a training program to develop a peacekeeping battalion, with one company ready to deploy next year:
A capstone event in 2009 included the development, with the aid of the United States Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation, of the Tajikistan Peacekeeping Policy white paper, which defines the goal of training and equipping a Peacekeeping Operations Battalion for the eventual deployment of an infantry company in support of a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in 2011. This program makes available $3.5 million toward the development of a United Nations certified peacekeeping capability in Tajikistan.
Just a few years ago, Tajikistan itself required a UN monitoring mission after its civil war, so this would certainly be a big step. But there is reason for a little skepticism. Tajikistan's armed forces are in pretty bad shape. The first sentence of the Jane's Sentinel entry: "The effectiveness of the Tajik Army is hampered by the fact that it is not the army as such, but rather units controlled by the Internal Affairs Ministry (MVD) and the National Guard (previously called the Presidential Guard until February 2004), which form the backbone of central government forces." And that was before they were found to be press ganging conscripts.
So are they ready for the UN? It took Mongolia something like ten years of active effort (PDF) to get to the point where the UN allowed them to deploy peacekeepers, to Sierra Leone in 2006. And Tajikistan is going to be ready in a year?
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.