The New US Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim arrived in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe on March 10th.
John Mark Pommersheim was sworn in by @StateDG as the next U.S. Ambassador to #Tajikistan today. Friends, family, and Tajikistan Ambassador to the U.S. Farhod Salim joined him for the event, sharing their best wishes for his new assignment! pic.twitter.com/TJdjOmqa3a
— State_SCA (@State_SCA) February 22, 2019
He was sworn in as the US Ambassador to the country on February 22nd in Washington D.C. To commemorate his arrival the US Embassy in Tajikistan published an introductory video for Pommersheim. The Tajikistan Ambassador to the US Farhod Salim was present at the ceremony.
Pommersheim was nominated by US President Donald Trump on September 12th and was appointed as the US Ambassador to Tajikistan on January 7th.
In an official biography, the State Department says that he is “among the [State] Department’s best Russian linguists.” Until his posting in Tajikistan, Pommersheim was the Deputy Chief of the US Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan. He has a 28-year long career, mostly served in Europe, Asia, including the former Soviet Union, “advancing U.S. priorities ranging from counterterrorism to promoting U.S. business.”
His Russian language skills allow him to “excel” in communicating US policy priorities.
Other significant positions he has held include:
- Department of State as Director, Office of South Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts (2013 -2015);
- Una Chapman Cox Fellow (2007-2008) and Consul General/Principal Officer, U.S. Consulate Vladivostok, Russia (2004-2007);
- Political Officer/External Unit Chief, U.S. Embassy Beijing, China (2001-2004);
- Russian Affairs Officer, Office of Russian Affairs (1997-1999);
- Political-Economic Officer, U.S. Embassy Minsk, Belarus (1992-1994);
- Consular Officer, U.S. Embassy Beijing, China (1990-1991).
He was also an exhibit guide for the United States Information Agency, Tbilisi/Tashkent/Irkutsk (Georgia and Uzbekistan), USSR (1987-1988). He was also a Production Assistant for CNN Moscow in USSR (1986.
The new US ambassador to Tajikistan holds a B.A. from Bucknell University and a M.A. from Columbia University. He also studied at the Pushkin Language Institute, Moscow on a US Department of Defense Scholarship. He is distinguished with “10 notable State Department awards, including runner-up for the Department of State Director General’s Award for Reporting and Analysis.”
In his testimony before the US Congress on October 11th, 2018, Pommersheim vowed to protect the US Embassy in Dushanbe and assist in improving co-operation with Tajikistan.
“If confirmed, my number one concern will always be the safety of our embassy staff at U.S. Embassy Dushanbe and all U.S. citizens in Tajikistan. As this committee’s members are aware, in July of this year four tourists— two of them U.S. citizens— were targeted and killed by attackers in Tajikistan who had pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State. I want to express condolences to the families of those who died and suffered in the attack. We stand with the families of the victims, and U.S. agencies are working closely with Tajik authorities in the ongoing investigation. If confirmed, one of my highest priority goals will be, as President Trump has recently asked of President Rahmon, deepening our information-sharing and counterterrorism cooperation with Tajikistan.”
It can easily be seen that he has long experience in the field of relations with post-Soviet states and in particular Russia, as well as some experience in with China. Translating from the diplomatic language to ordinary English, his work was focused on combating Russian and Chinese influence in the Central Asia and Caucasuus as well as promoting US interests via both diplomatic and clandestine mearues.
Most likely, the appointment of Pommersheim is a part of preprations designed to set ground for US operations ahead of an expected crisis of the regime of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and the increasing pressure from radical groups operating in the Afghan-Tajik border. Multiple sources provide reports about a concentration of forces of ISIS and other radical groups in the area on the border between Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Top Russian and Tajik officials as well as Afghan sources have repeatedly mentioned this factor in their statements and reports. Meanwhile, the US-Taliban negotiations over the Afghan conflict are successfully ongoing in Doha.
For example on January 28, Russian Interior Minister Igor Zubov said that unidentified helicopters are redeploying large numbers of ISIS members from Pakistan to Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan. Zubov added that it’s highly likely that large-scale provocations are being prepared in the area in order to trigger a humanitarian crisis and destabilize the situation near the Russian southern border. In other words, the interior minister said that a civil war might start in Tajikistan.
After the fall of the USSR, Tajikistan appeared in one of the worst situation among all former USSR republics. In the period from 1992 to 1997, the country faced a civil war. Tajikistan’s economy was depredating and a number of social problem in the country was rapidly growing. An factor influencing the situation in the country is the spread of radical ideologies both Taliban and ISIS propaganda from Afghanistan. These factors as well as the growing social and political tensions are pushing the state towards the crisis.
Tajikistan may soon become a new hotspot undermining regional security in the Central Asia. There are serious doubts that Washington is in any kind planning to rescue Rahmon and his inncer circle or “ordinary Tajiks”. So, the US may traditionally aim to use the expected hot point to achieve own geopolitical goals in the region: to limit influence of the global competitors and to undermine the security situation in the southern Russian borders.
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