Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 6

The authorities in Dushanbe, fully aware of the growing security issues confronting Tajikistan and the region as a result of drug trafficking, are making gradual inroads into finding alternative partners to support domestic efforts to tackle the problem. Notably, this policy need has raised the level of practical cooperation between Dushanbe and security structures in Afghanistan; though in its early stages, signs are encouraging the regime to place greater emphasis upon regional cooperation.

The Drug Control Agency under the Tajik president (DCA) considers such cooperation vital in the ongoing efforts to curb the flow of narcotics across the Tajik-Afghan border into Commonwealth of Independent States countries and beyond to the European Union. Police Colonel Avaz Yuldoshev, head of the DCA’s public relations department, believes this strategy will be reinforced by closer liaison with Afghanistan’s special services (Itar-Tass, January 4). “The effectiveness of cooperation has increased several-fold after we opened three representative offices in the north of Afghanistan last year,” according to Yuldoshev. The essential elements of sharing intelligence and working closely in this key area reaped benefits during 2005 with the seizure of 335 kilograms of heroin and nine smugglers, including two Taliban field commanders. It appears that advances in cross border and inter-agency cooperation will lead to the reciprocal opening of Afghan centers in Dushanbe later this year, in order to boost further these tentative security links.

Western and domestic assistance to support the formation and training of Tajikistan’s DCA personnel have not always clearly demonstrated the dividends that proponents of such assistance predicted. However, while treating with care the official pronouncements on alleged successes in curbing the drugs trade through Tajik territory, sporadic reporting from within Tajikistan suggests a level of progress — at least within some of Tajikistan’s regions.

In 2005, according to official figures, the counter-narcotics department of Soghd region’s Internal Affairs Directorate (southern Tajikistan) seized a total of 223.4 kilograms of drugs. Nasim Olimov, head of the department, explained that this haul compared favorably with the previous year when the figure was 680.4 kilograms; the seizures in 2005 led to 235 criminal proceedings. Olimov clearly wanted to celebrate the success of his agency in achieving an apparent breakthrough, however double-edged the figures may be in reality, claiming the downturn in drug seizures revealed an improvement in the overall situation. The truth, as it can be gleaned from the myriad optimistic sources, suggests there may be incremental performance enhancement within the DCA and the supporting Tajik security structures. While avoiding the usual numbers game of interpreting and offering adequate explanations for the fluctuations in drug seizures, Tajikistan’s domestic agencies are taking seriously the security dilemma confronting the state as a result of the poppy trade from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Dushanbe’s cooperation with its near neighbor will be pivotal for stemming further the damage to the country and the region from the incessant and burgeoning illicit trade (Asia-Plus, January 6).

On January 5 Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov held a meeting in Dushanbe with the heads of law-enforcement and security agencies and his economic team. Although discussions included the plight of the Tajik armed forces, with special attention paid to arrangements for supporting them over the winter period, the meeting focused on the security agencies’ joint fight against the illegal drugs trade. Rahmonov gave instructions to eliminate the existing shortcomings and improve service conditions alongside the material and technical support required to maintain the country’s security and law-enforcement agencies (Asia-Plus, January 5).

Positive developments and publicity for the DCA itself have been hard to come by, given the continued woeful saga of the trial of the former head of the DCA, Ghaffor Mirzoyev. His trial was postponed for one day, since it was earlier scheduled to begin January 10. The postponement was granted owing to the celebration of Id al-Adha in Tajikistan on January 10. Despite the high levels of international support for the DCA, Mirzoyev was arrested on charges of illegally storing weapons, illegally hiring bodyguards, the alleged killing of a police officer, shady business activities, and a coup attempt.

Rahmonov is positioning himself for the increasing role of NATO and the international community in developing post-conflict Afghanistan. He senses possible benefits from greater assistance from the Alliance and its members in training and developing the relevant security agencies to combat drug trafficking. Equally, he is painstakingly aware of his historic dependence on Russia to tackle the same issue and wants desperately to show some evidence of domestic achievement in Tajikistan’s efforts to cope with drug trafficking. The issue is never far from the minds of planners in multilateral security bodies and the main players near and beyond Central Asia.

Rahmonov will endeavor to capitalize on NATO’s efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan by depicting Tajikistan as a vital player on the drug issue and raising the specter of more successful cross border cooperation with Afghanistan’s security agencies in the future.