Afghan, Pakistani conflicts spilling into Central Asian states?
Tajikistan blames recent attacks at home on fighters fleeing anti-Taliban offensives. Security was the topic at a regional summit in Dushanbe Thursday.
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"The Taliban gave refuge to many Central Asian people – ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, etc., who were members of IMU or Islamist members of the opposition during the [Tajik] civil war," and it makes sense that they would now flee the troubled areas and go home, says Abdugani Mamadazimov, chair of the Association of Political Scientists based in Dushanbe. "Tavildara is just 500-600 kilometers (about 310-370 miles) away from ... Pakistan."Skip to next paragraph
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These fighters are probably not simply fleeing, but are going home with the task to destabilize, Mr. Mamadazimov continues.
Target: the new US supply route
The rise in violence may be tied to the United States attempts to find a new supply line through Tajikistan for its forces in Afghanistan, after convoys on its main route in Pakistan were repeatedly attacked by militants.
Tajikistan has agreed to provide its territory for the transit of nonlethal cargo to supply US troops in Afghanistan. This route, called the Northern Distribution Network, goes through the Baltics, Russia, and Central Asian states.
The Taliban have warned the Tajik government against cooperating with the US. "This is regarded as a participation in the aggression against Afghanistan," Abdul Vase Mutasim Agha, introduced as a director of Taliban's political committee, told Al Jazeera in May when the US-Tajik agreement on the transit corridor was reached. "This step of yours would lead to instability."
Just an internal affair
Some analysts, however, say the recent shootouts have little to do with Taliban and instead reflect domestic conflict.
MirzahudjaAkhmedov, an opposition field commander during the civil war, says these incidents are part of the standoff between the government and former warlords who fought in the opposition during the civil war.
Many of them still feel cheated, says Mr. Akhmedov. Although a peace treaty was signed in 1997 and warlords were folded into the government, once current President Emomali Rakhmon consolidated his power after 2000, they began to lose their seats.
"The government wants to control us. They didn't amnesty civil war fighters. They can arrest us any time and of course no one wants to go to jail," he says.
Security tightens in Tavildara
In any case, police and soldiersare apparently clamping down around Tavildara. They have set up 11 checkpoints along the 110-mile route from Dushanbe to Tavildara at which they register travelers' names and passport details. Villagers along the route say they don't recall ever seeing so many checkpoints. Security forces are also turning away journalists, saying it's too dangerous to travel further east.
About 40 miles southeast of Dushanbe, "there were armored vehicles and military trucks. It was clear to us that [the troops] were fighting a serious force," says Gulnara Ravshan, a local journalist who managed to get to Tavildara under cover.
Residents there told Ms. Ravshan that the fighters they had seen were from Afghanistan. Many have sent their children to Dushanbe and other places because they fear the militants may kidnap their daughters and forcibly recruit their sons.