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By Dilafruz Nabiyeva
DUSHANBE –Tajikistan is reinforcing its border with Afghanistan, after Afghan border guards warned Tajik officials that as many as 40 Taliban militants have gathered near the Tajik frontier.
Border-tightening measures were ordered immediately in hopes of preventing any potential cross-border attack after the warning earlier this month, said Khushnud Rakhmatullayev, spokesman for the Main Border Service Department of the State National Security Committee (GKNB).
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service cited a November 5 report by Gen. Dovudi Dovud, police commander of southern Afghanistan, of a large-scale anti-Taliban operation launched near the Tajik frontier.
Tajik border guard representatives met with Afghan border guards in Panj, near the Afghan frontier, to co-ordinate actions if tensions rise, Rakhmatullayev told Central Asia Online.
Reports of possible border crossing came in last month
Tajik analysts and media discussed a potential Taliban crossing of the Tajik-Afghan border as early as last month, after reports that a large group of militants from Afghanistan already had entered Tajikistan.
“An incursion by some militant groups into Tajik territory is theoretically possible,” Tajik observer of Afghan developments Ilkhom Narziyev said.
But Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon denied that possibility during his October 25th visit to Kabul.
“I see those media reports about 400 militants having allegedly infiltrated into the republic from Afghanistan as groundless,” he said at a Kabul news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The border receives better protection now than in the past, and an incursion by such a large militant group is out of the question, he said. He added that in facing extremist threats, the two countries should display maximum responsibility and co-ordination.
Rustam Nazarov, director of Tajikistan’s Drug Control Agency (AKN), agreed that co-operation between drug police in the two countries has been effective.
“Over the past nine months of this year alone, AKN liaison officers, acting in concert with Afghan law enforcement, have carried out 43 joint operations seizing 852.6kg of narcotics, including 140kg of heroin,” he said.
Co-operative efforts have led to results
Nazarov said Tajik and Afghan drug police have shut down 12 Afghan drug laboratories, detained 50 traffickers, and confiscated five weapons in joint operations.
Afghanistan and Tajikistan have also co-ordinated personnel training, with more than 100 Afghan border guards, drug police and Customs and Interior Ministry officers and 300 Afghan medics undergoing Tajik training courses, Rakhmon said in Kabul.
Long-term co-ordination in both military and non-military functions is necessary to keep the Tajik-Afghan border secure, military observer Shakhobiddin Ziyoyev told Central Asia Online.
“Only by concerted effort, and with minimum reliance on third-party support, can our two countries hope to control the terrorist groups,” he said. “That requires routine everyday work, and the results of our prior interaction in fighting drug trafficking should encourage us to still more efficient co-operation.”
Promoting cross-border trade could be helpful, Ziyoyev noted.
“Raising living standards in border areas in the two countries would significantly slash local people’s dependence on the illicit drug trade and reduce chances of their involvement in terrorist activities.”
Toward that end, the Tajik Ministry of Economic Development and Trade announced that it has submitted proposals on opening several cross-border trade centres to serve Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Those will include the Kumsangir centre in the Kumsangir District, Khatlon Oblast; the Kumrogi centre in the Vandzh District; the Langar centre in the Ishkashim District; and the Kulma-Karasu centre in the Murgab District, Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast, Gulchekhra Bozorova, deputy minister of economic development and trade told an international conference on promoting trade and improving cross-border exchanges between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
“If markets are built soon in other border districts as well, and if their working hours are extended, that will help scale down tensions along the border with neighbouring Afghan provinces and boost (our) mutually beneficial partnership,” Bozorova said.