Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 208

Tajik government troops yesterday continued mopping-up operations against isolated rebel units close to the Uzbek border and near the strategic Anzob pass. The goal of the operations are, first, to prevent the remaining rebel forces from withdrawing into Uzbekistan and, second, to capture their leaders. By decree of President Imomali Rahmonov, the country is observing today a day of mourning for the victims of the fighting. The actual number of those killed has yet to be disclosed, but is estimated to reach into the hundreds. In a statement to the country, Rahmonov pledged that the government will continue the peace process with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). He emphasized that “nobody will be able to force it off that path”–a swipe at Uzbekistan and at internal groups that count on the neighboring country for support.

The indications are growing that the rebellion helped advance government-UTO reconciliation, instead of stopping that process. The rebels’ actual political goals, however, are far from clear and may have differed from Tashkent’s rigidly anti-Islamic agenda. Their political program, on the surface at least, included important points that could have appealed to the UTO and the country’s eastern regions, not just Leninabad.

The government made public yesterday an appeal to the “leaderships of CIS countries, especially Uzbekistan and Russia” to cooperate with Tajikistan in apprehending and extraditing the rebel leaders. According to the document, some of these leaders “have lived in the capital of Uzbekistan under protection of special services, and some have lived in Moscow.” The list appended to the request includes the names of ex-Colonel Mahmud Hudoberdiev, the brothers Abdumalik and Abdugani Abdullajonov (background on these figures in the Monitor, November 4, 9), former Internal Affairs Ministry special troops commander Rustam Karimov, former State Customs Committee chief Yakub Salimov, former internal trade chief Habibullo Nasrulloev and a host of others. Salimov and Nasrulloev used to be field commanders of Popular Front troops, the Russian-backed force which helped the present government to power in the 1991-93 stage of the civil war. Popular Front factions later fell out with Rahmonov and resisted–as did Uzbekistan–the government’s half-hearted attempts to reach accommodation with the UTO.

The government’s declaration in practice puts the onus on Uzbekistan to admit to having supported the rebels and to cease such support. Russia’s role seems far less intrusive in this case. While Abdumalik Abdullajonov lived in Moscow, he actually encouraged the government-UTO accommodation, seeking in vain the inclusion of Leninabad region representatives (led by himself) in the power-sharing agreements (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, Radio Dushanbe, November 9).