MILITARY SITUATION IN TAJIKISTAN DEVELOPS IN THE GOVERNMENT’S FAVOR.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 140
The Tajik government now acknowledges substantial progress in the disbandment of the United Opposition’s (UTO) military forces. Mandated by the military stipulations of the 1997 Moscow peace agreements, the disbandment of UTO forces has until recently been held up by government nonfulfillment of the political stipulations of those agreements. The government has sought implementation of the military agreement first, as a way to deprive the opposition of any serious leverage over the political process. The UTO wanted to proceed on both tracks in parallel, so as to retain at least some of its leverage. The latest developments suggest that the government–in combining limited political concessions and arm-twisting–is meeting with success in accelerating the disbandment of opposition forces.
This disbandment includes two distinct aspects. Some UTO guerrillas are being incorporated into government forces while others are being demobilized and returning to civilian life. The decisive stage of the process is now underway in the Tavildara and Komsomolabad districts, the opposition’s strongholds in central Tajikistan, with the cooperation of UTO’s political and military leaders.
According to President Imomali Rahmonov’s senior military adviser, Mizrob Kobirov, the government-opposition joint Attestation Commission has officially registered 5,377 opposition fighters. Approximately 60 percent of these are eligible for incorporation into the government’s forces. Some 1,500 have already been incorporated–mostly in small groups–into the army and border troops. The opposition fighters are, however, not eligible for serving in the elite State Security Ministry troops, which constitute the government’s best equipped and most loyal military instrument.
The other registered UTO guerrillas are to be demobilized and to return to civilian life. That option is also available to the fighters eligible for continued military service. According to Kobirov, those willing to exercise that option are mainly rank-and-file guerrillas over the age of 27–those who can no longer hope to be promoted to officer ranks. The government has approved a program of incentives, including the promise to distribute private plots of land to those returning to their villages in central and eastern Tajikistan. The land program remains a mere promise for the time being, however.
The disarmament of UTO forces poses a special problem. Most of the opposition’s arms stockpiles are said to be still under the control of remaining UTO units. UTO leaders suggest that the commanders and members of these units regard those arms as personal property and would be willing to sell them, but not to give them away. The government says that it accepts this argument, but lacks the means to buy the arms and will apply to the guarantor countries to finance the disarmament program. The government seems loath to admit that many–possibly most–of those arms were captured by the opposition forces from the government’s inept and desertion-prone army troops.
The UTO has meanwhile given up its claim to the post of defense minister–a huge concession to the government. The issue had long been a major bone of political contention. There can be little doubt that the Office of the Russian Military Adviser–an apparatus of Russian officers which controls the Tajik Defense Ministry down to the section level–had refused to serve under an UTO minister and had vetoed his appointment, notwithstanding the 1997 Moscow arrangements which entitled UTO to head that ministry. The UTO’s nominee, Mirzo Zio, proved a highly capable commander during the war and a loyal executant of the opposition’s military agreement with the government since the war. The UTO and Zio have accepted the post of minister for civil defense and emergency situations–a ministry which deals mainly with disasters and accidents.
In a parallel development on the political scene, the government has engineered the reelection of Haji Amanullo Nigmatzoda as head of the Spiritual Department of Muslims in Tajikistan–a Soviet-era institution common to all ex-Soviet republics. The occupant of that post is the highest government-approved cleric. Nigmatzoda had held the post for the last three years as a loyal functionary of the government, and has now been elected for a five-year term by an assembly of obedient clerics in the Dushanbe area. The move illustrates the government’s ability to disregard the opposition’s basic interests in the political process (Itar-Tass, Radio Dushanbe, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, July 18-20).
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