Alwaght- The financial supports of the Persian Gulf’s Arab sheikhdoms, especially the Saudis Arabia, to the radical militant groups as well as Riyadh’s antagonism towards Moscow have prepared the ground for these groups to carry out attacks in Russia’s security backyard, especially in Tajikistan.
The latest reports from Tajik sources suggest that a small Taliban group has crossed into Tajikistan from Panj border post, some 190 kilometers away from Dushanbe, the capital city. The armed group clashed with the Tajik border guards, leaving behind heavy tolls, the same reports added.
Publishing the news on Saturday, Tajikistan’s border police said that one of the militants was killed in the scuffle.
How does Taliban look to Central Asia and Tajikistan?
Taliban has started moving to Afghanistan’s northern provinces like Badakhshan, Takhar, Faryab and Kunduz since a year ago. But the fall of the strategic city of Kunduz, known as the gate to Central Asia and Tajikistan, has taken place while Taliban group had gone to great lengths to increase its key positions in northern Afghanistan and at the same time bring in its spotlight the nearby provinces of Takhar, Baghlan and Badakhshan.
If the rebels seek entering some regions in these provinces and capturing some parts for a short time, they need to prepare the ground by bringing the northern borders under focus.
Overall, if Taliban still thinks of seizing the power and wants to strengthen its influence in Afghanistan and build an unchallengeable power in northern Afghanistan, it needs to develop a cross-border strategy. Such a way of thinking was held by some of the group’s leaders in the 1990s, during rule of Taliban in Afghanistan. But whether such a way of thinking still exists or not among Taliban or it is tactically out of use is a matter of further examination.
However, during the past years, many of Taliban’s leaders had no plans to expand the range of clashes to Central Asia. In last year’s summer, Afghanistan’s Taliban has issued a statement, addressing the regional countries including those of Central Asia, assuring that its military operations were limited to Afghanistan’s geographical borders and spillover to other countries was simply an enemy’s propaganda and promotion. Therefore, one issue must be taken into account and it is the status of different divides inside post-Mullah Omar Taliban.
Factors such as restoring Taliban’s identity, particularly after death of Mullah Omar’s death, different Taliban factions leaders’ flexing muscles for convincing the opponents, launching a psychological warfare, getting the internal and foreign players like Russia to make concessions in the future, could make up the goals of strategic or periodic attention to Tajikistan’s borders by Taliban leaders or fractions.
Regional and international factors
Since 2013, Taliban has intensified efforts to get a toehold in northern Afghanistan using the foreign fighters. In Taliban’s viewpoint, the region is the gate of Central Asia and the route of its global drugs trade.
Meanwhile, during the past year, Taliban affiliates appeared in Afghanistan’s north from Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and militant groups from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Russia’s Chechnya and China’s Uyghurs.
Meanwhile, different regional factors could take a role in inciting Taliban’s or some of its fractions’ occasional or strategic attacks and penetration in Tajikistan’s borders.
On the other hand, we must know that during the past year, attacks were carried out by Afghan and Pakistani nationals or those who have been in Pakistan in the past years.
Even in the operation to capture Afghanistan’s Kunduz there were Arab, Chechenian and Pakistani dissenters who led the war. So, Pakistan itself or its radical organizations and groups could take their share in encouraging such attacks.
Such a role could be taken directly or indirectly. In fact the double-sided policy of Islamabad towards Taliban’s affiliates and the support of ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence) to Taliban’s affiliates in Afghanistan could help the militant group to show off power and even threaten Tajikistan’s borders.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s anti-Russian approach in cases such as West Asian crisis could pave the way for launching attacks in Moscow’s security back yard.
In this approach, the Western and Arab- Persian Gulf Arab states and specifically Saudi Arabia- countries could help Taliban or some of its affiliates to expend or focus on borders of Tajikistan and Russian field of influence.
Internationally, due to proximity of northern Afghanistan to the Tajik borders attacking the border areas and infiltration in the region could be as part of an extensive scope of Western and American strategies in the face of Russia.
In the recent months there has been news of contacts between Moscow intelligence officials and Taliban members. Taliban and the Russians have hinted that there have been connections between them.
Meanwhile, the recent Russian standings on four-party meeting of the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan and the American’s view on Moscow’s supplying Taliban with weapons are coming while Russia thinks that Turkey and Saudi Arabia as well as the West are behind the emergence of ISIS terrorist group in Afghanistan. Moscow actually believes that they intend to push the extremists into Central Asian countries.
Despite the fact that recently the US Department of State in an unprecedented move has warned against increase of radical movements in Central Asia, it must be known that Washington seeks to put strains on Moscow’s interests in Central Asia region. Furthermore, Washington seeks destabilizing Central Asia by radical groups such as Taliban to the profit of Western and Arab countries.
Obviously, Tajikistan shares about 1, 500 kilometers of borderlines with Afghanistan and some cities of Afghanistan in this border region are now captured by radical groups like Taliban.
Moreover, last year, Taliban in common border area of Tajikistan with Afghanistan abducted 4 border guards. They were freed six months later with a Qatari cooperation.
Currently, Taliban has an extensive presence in Tajikistan border area Jangal. It has added to its forces there and now it is busy refreshing and preparing them for clashes.
Meanwhile, the Tajik president has earlier expressed his concerns over the fragile security conditions in Tajikistan-Afghanistan borders. Recording 18 cases of armed clashes with border intruders as well as other confrontations during the past 6 months in Afghan-Tajik border areas, the visits of top Chinese, Pakistani and Tajik military and security chiefs to Afghanistan and providing security of Chinese companies operating in Tajikistan have been the key issues calling attention in this year.
Furthermore, establishing a counter-terror department in Tajikistan’s ministry of Interior, enhancing the country’s defense capabilities and enlarging the country’s army threefold while 1,094 Tajik nationals are now members of terror groups, show that official and unofficial players are paying their attention to Tajikistan-Afghanistan borders.