Central Asian nations wary of new Taliban government
Tajikistan is among the most concerned and is preparing itself militarily, asking the international community to intervene. Uzbekistan is more open to dialogue, but has the best armed army in the region. The Taliban speak of good relations with Tashkent.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rakhmon, this week launched an appeal to his compatriots and to the international community to take appropriate measures to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan. The new government in Kabul is stocked exclsively with Taliban already thrashing orevious promises to open up to the various ethnic and social components of the country (in which ethnic Tajiks are significant), proving to be unreliable. All Central Asian countries share Rakhmon's concerns, in which the Kremlin's thinking can also be perceived.
Tajikistan has just celebrated 30 years of post-Soviet independence. On September 9, Tajik authorities held a substantial military parade through the streets of Dushanbe. In front of soldiers and deployed weapons, Rakhmon warned that "the situation in Afghanistan affects the entire region, putting our security at risk." The day before, during the main ceremony of the 30th anniversary, the Tajik president had stressed the need to form a government in Afghanistan with the participation of all ethnic groups. "I am shocked that the world's human rights institutions remain silent and do not react in any way to defend the rights of Afghans," said Rakhmon.
The message sent to the Taliban by the government of Uzbekistan was quite different. A note from the foreign ministry in Tashkent states "the hope that the decisions taken by the new executive may be the beginning of a great national agreement for the re-establishment of a stable peace throughout the country". Uzbek diplomats said they are ready to "develop a constructive dialogue and activate effective cooperation with the new Afghan government."
Tajik political scientist Parviz Mullodžanov notes in Nezavisimaja Gazeta that "Uzbekistan's dialogic approach does not seem more productive than Tajikistan's diffident one. In the 1990s, Dushanbe maintained good relations with the Taliban, but this did not prevent incursions by their accomplices, the Salafist guerrillas of Afghan-Uzbek Juma Namangani." According to Mullodžanov, the Taliban is incapable of maintaining an agreement. It is precisely their past experience that is causing the Tajiks' perplexity, not to mention their historical hostility towards the Pashtun ethnic group.
More than 30 jihadist organizations operate under the control of the Taliban, including the Salafists, who are widespread in other Central Asian countries. On September 10, a raid was carried out in Tashkent against one of these organizations. Many bloggers are working to spread radical Islamist ideology of Taliban influence on social networks. The precarious economic condition of the Central Asian nations increases the likelihood of new conflicts, in which jihadists would be in their element.
Uzbekistan's more dialogic stance would be dictated by Tashkent's greater confidence about its own forces on the ground. According to many experts, the local army is the most powerful in all of Central Asia. To date, the Uzbek Armed Forces count on 70 thousand soldiers, many of them with field experience accumulated in recent clashes: especially in the mining city of Yangiabad and in the Kyrgyz city of Bakten. Also the equipment of weapons and war technology would have been completed and modernized during the last five years, since Šavkat Mirziyoyev replaced the first historical president Islam Karimov.
After the start of Taliban attacks in August, the Uzbek army was placed in a high state of alert. It is known that after the capture of Kabul several members and collaborators of the deposed government moved to neighboring countries. Many Afghan soldiers repaired in Uzbekistan and took with them weapons and military equipment, including planes and helicopters.
Certainly the soldiers and weapons passed into the service of Tashkent are many more, beyond official reports. The Uzbeks do not clarify what their fate will be, although on August 20 it was stated that after some negotiations with the Taliban "150 Afghans who illegally entered Uzbekistan have been repatriated."
On the Uzbek border, which runs along the river Amu Darya, the Taliban have installed special equipment for the collection of biometric data: now it is impossible to cross it in both directions without special permits. Afghan fundamentalists claim that with Uzbekistan "there are relations of mutual interest".