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№ 19 (63) October 2007
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Elena Dorokhova,
Borders of america
How strong is the US influence on Tajik borders?
Fahriddin Holbeck (Dushanbe)
For the first time in the history of Tajikistan, joint training exercises of the US military and Tajik border guards are held. Some experts believe that this is a sign of the growing influence of the United States on the Tajik borders. The US-Tajik military training camp, which began on January 29, is officially held in the framework of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against global threats to the world. According to Khushnud Rakhmatulloyev, spokesman for the border management of the National Security Committee of the Republic of Tajikistan, this is an exchange of experience between the two countries. “All this is connected with drug trafficking from Afghanistan, international terrorism and religious extremism,” he noted.

According to official figures, at the site Fahrabad, 35 km. from Dushanbe, US Department of Defense Marine Corps specialists, who bear the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, taught Tajik border guards the art of fighting drug traffickers, terrorists, and border trespassers. The term of the exercise will be 40 days (from January 29 to March 9). 12 American specialists and more than 70 Tajik border guards of the special-purpose group take part in them.

After the withdrawal of the Russian border troops from the Tajik-Afghan border, financial assistance to the Tajik border guards mainly comes from the United States. According to the agreements with the embassy of this country in Tajikistan, Tajik border guards were allocated $ 16 million in 2006. The amount of US assistance to the border troops of Tajikistan from 2002 to this day is about $ 8 million. Another sign of the growing American influence on the Tajik-Afghan border is also considered by experts to build a bridge over the Amu Darya River that will link Tajikistan with Afghanistan. “The American flag is hanging there,” they emphasize. The USA allocated $ 30 million for the construction of this bridge and is leading the project of the American military corps.

At the same time, having left the Tajik-Afghan border, Russia remains a strategic partner of Tajikistan. A group of FSB Border Guard Advisors of 300 men serve on the Tajik-Afghan border side by side with Tajik colleagues. Officially it is said that Russia also provides technical assistance. With all this, according to Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, head of the analytical center of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, if the Tajik border troops receive American assistance, this means that they have become dependent. According to him, this dependence means that Russia has lost its former position on the Tajik-Afghan border and "can no longer develop its policy towards Afghanistan without the consent of the States."

Earlier, Tajikistan conducted joint military exercises with Russia and China. They were directed against alleged terrorists, extremists and drug dealers. In addition, this meant the solidarity of Tajikistan in the fight against global threats with these countries within the framework of the SCO and the CSTO. In these exercises, mainly participated by the armed forces of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Tajikistan. But, only the Tajik border guards and the American marines participate in the forty-day training exercises.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan called the development of relations with Russia, China and the United States the success of the country's foreign policy in 2006. Syumin Yatimov, the country's first deputy foreign minister, said that Tajikistan is developing its relations with these countries on the basis of a balanced and multi-vector foreign policy. Experts also believe that the presence in the zone of Russian traditional influence, Chinese investment, support and favor of world American hegemony have much “softened” the position of Tajikistan in the political undertakings of these powers in Central Asia. Today, these powers are trying to “not offend” Tajikistan in order to expand their influence more. Of course, within reasonable limits. For example, Russia sometimes sometimes does not make concessions to Tajikistan on the issue of Tajik migrants, or the Tajik authorities are criticized by the United States on the issue of human rights violations, etc. But, they both lead policies that compensate for their negative actions and criticism.

According to Saifullo Safarov, deputy chairman of the Center for Strategic Studies under the President, when Tajikistan adheres to a multi-vector policy, this policy also works in the military field. “Those exercises that were conducted with Russia and China were very broad, and the exercises with the USA are only symbolic,” Safarov emphasized.

Tajikistan is a US ally in the fight against international terrorism. The states have a military presence in Afghanistan, where the political situation has deteriorated markedly in the past year. The Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorist organization have resumed and expanded their terrorist activities throughout Afghanistan. According to Safarov, the fact that the United States is currently the guarantor of Central Asian security is undeniable. “Washington’s policy covers Afghanistan, the region’s most unstable country. Therefore, the influence of America is increasing on the borders of Afghanistan, ”he stressed.

One can imagine how much the responsibility of the US towards Central Asia has increased, and how much the latter is influenced by this superpower. But Russia and China are watching the situation. The US presence in the region is partly due to the consent of these countries. This means that beyond the Amu Darya, the States cannot expand the boundaries of their influence at their discretion. Russia, China, the countries of the region and the United States converge in this reality - without the United States, the security of the region is in jeopardy, and the forced favor of Russia and China is the reason for the unimpeded presence of the United States. No one - neither China nor Russia - at the moment will risk taking responsibility for Afghanistan.
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