As the war within Afghanistan is over, with Taliban as the clear winner, the time has now come for issues outside the country to press forward.
Currently, the situation at the Afghanistan – Tajikistan border is escalating, and the possibility of an armed conflict is increasing.
Both sides are sending troops to the border and it seems as just a matter of time until a stray shot causes a rapid chain reaction that leads to hostilities.
Relations between the two neighboring countries have gone sour after the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan. This is mostly due to the rhetoric on the side of Tajikistan, President Rahmon spoke in support of the National Resistance Front, and in support of the leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who opposed the Taliban.
Additionally, the Punjabi Tajik leadership operates out of Dushanbe and as such also opposes the Taliban ideology.
On September 27th, President Ramon organized a parade in Darvaz, exactly on the border of Afghanistan.
This march was carried out to lift the spirit of border troops, as well as servicemen from the ground troops, in addition to the law enforcement agencies. They all took part in it.
In total, 2,000 servicemen and 50 units of military equipment took part in the parade. Darvaz district is part of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region and borders with Afghanistan.
Prior to that, Rahmon made some antagonizing statements addressing the Taliban movement.
On September 23rd, speaking at the 76th UNGA, he called for independent elections in Afghanistan and the creation of an inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic groups, including Afghan Tajiks.
There are also concerns from Tajikistan’s side that the Taliban plan on infiltrating the country. An anonymous official at Tajikistan’s Border Service, a branch of the State National Security Committee, confirmed that Tajik authorities are reviewing information from various sources that militants are preparing infiltrations from northern Afghanistan.
This Tajik stance is in line with the United States’ attempts to duly illustrate the failure of the Taliban’s leadership of Afghanistan. For Washington this is significant in two ways: to calm the domestic political agenda, as well as a tool to impede China’s expansion in the region.
Beijing has an interest and much to gain if the region is stabilized. In that way its economic growth will be protected. And China is the main creditor of the Tajik economy, as a result it has a bit of pressure and it could exert it.
According to the latest data, Tajikistan owes China more than $1.2 billion, while the total external debt according to the Ministry of Finance of Tajikistan as of October 1, 2020 is about $3.2 billion. To put it simply, more than a third of Tajikistan’s external debt is owed to China. According to the latest data, about 80% of the republic’s gold deposits are already being developed by Chinese companies.
As a result, to avoid escalation it would be no surprise if Beijing exerts pressure to curb an escalation in a region it wishes to remain stable.
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