MELTDOWN OF TAJIK OPPOSITION FORCES BEGINS.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 88

The command of Tajikistan’s border troops announced on May 4 that more than 1,000 experienced fighters of the opposition forces have recently been incorporated into the government’s border troops. This development represents the first real breakthrough toward “integration” of opposition forces into the government’s military and security forces, as stipulated by the military protocol to the 1997 pacification agreements between the government and the opposition. A first group of 170 former opposition fighters is being deployed alongside Russian troops in the Panj sector of the Tajik-Afghan border as of today.

Additional units are due for deployment with Russian troops in the Ishkoshim, Murghob and Kalaikhumb sectors on the Tajik-Afghan border. Yet other groups of ex-opposition fighters are being assigned to supplement Tajik border troops on the borders with Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Those are termed “internal borders” by the Tajik government in conformity with the Russian practice of differentiating between “CIS internal” and “CIS external borders” (Radio Dushanbe, May 4; Itar-Tass, May 4).

This manner of “integrating” the former opposition forces with those of government would seem to constitute only a purely formal progress in implementing the pacification agreement. In practice it amounts to a unilateral dissolution of opposition forces, who had more than held their own against the pro-Moscow government and its military until 1997-98. The opposition forces are being dispersed into company-sized units and placed among the far larger Russian and Tajik border forces, which number approximately 16,000 and 9,000, respectively. The command of Tajikistan’s border troops–which now controls the units comprised of ex-opposition fighters–is operationally subordinated to the command of Russian Border Troops. The former opposition forces thus end up under Russian control.

If the planned absorption of opposition forces into the Defense Ministry’s and the Internal Affairs Ministry’s troops takes place along the same pattern, the United Tajik Opposition will have lost its main leverage for inducing government compliance with the political provisions of the pacification agreement. In that case, the UTO’s political fate–and the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections–will probably be up to the regime and to Russia to determine.

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