07/12/2021, 10.24
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Central Asian governments use Uyghur militiamen against the Taliban

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Countries such as Tajikistan and Turkmenistan feel threatened by the advance of Afghan extremists. Russia's support and its control of the 'students of God'. Turkey is getting into the game by hiring ex-Isis militiamen.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - Several Central Asian nations are ready to use mercenary groups to protect their borders threatened by the conflict in Afghanistan between the government army and the Taliban, reports the authoritative Russian newspaper Nezavisimaja Gazeta. In a July 10 article that most of the militiamen recruited by the governments of the region are refugees of Uyghur origin from China.

The Uyghurs are allegedly being used against the Taliban by Tajikistan and other nations belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which emerged from the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. As part of the CIS agreements, the Russian Federation's 201 military base is active on Tajik territory, but the Kremlin is only observing the situation for now.

From the 201 base, however, the Russian military has begun various preventive manoeuvres with Tajik troops: operations have taken place in the mountain ranges of Lokhur and Sambuli. The Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) of the Central Military District, who are also in charge of preparing the Uzbek military, are leading the activities. It is expected that these mixed forces will soon be deployed on the borders with Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan is the most lukewarm country in the fight against the Taliban, with whom it had made agreements at the time of the historic President Islam Karimov. Even his successor Šavkat Mirziyoyev is not averse to taking on social models closer to those of the Taliban. With the recent law on religious freedom, Mirziyoyev has allowed Uzbek Muslims to profess more open forms of Islamic radicalism, including the possibility of wearing the hijab in public places. Uzbekistan, however, is also welcoming several Afghan soldiers fleeing the Taliban militias.

The situation is more uncertain in Turkmenistan, whose border with Afghanistan is in the hands of the Taliban. President Gurbangul Berdymukhamedov has decided to strengthen the military presence on the border, also by hiring private militias. Many of these armed groups are made up of Uyghur refugees.

Joint defence plans against the Taliban are also being discussed by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Its director Anatolij Sidorov is now permanently based in Dushanbe to monitor the Afghan-Taliban border and draw up joint response plans. For now, the only measure in place seems to be the use of Uyghur militias.

Russia is also trying to deal directly with the Taliban. A delegation of Islamic fundamentalists was welcomed in Moscow, despite the fact that it is an "extremist organisation" banned in the Federation. Many opponents are now demanding that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov be excluded from the electoral lists, in which he would be the leader of United Russia, President Vladimir Putin's party. Contact with extremists' is the reason also used to exclude all navalists from the elections.

Turkey is also reportedly preparing plans to meddle in Afghanistan. According to various Kurdish media, Ankara would like to engage the mercenary militia of the 'Syrian National Army', which includes various members of the former Isis. The mercenaries, Uyghurs or others, would thus be the key to the management of a very complex conflict, which goes beyond the borders of Afghanistan and involves the entire Central Asian region.

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