Tajik resistance forces yesterday resumed advances against government troops in the mountainous Tavildar district. Military officials in Dushanbe acknowledged that their troops had been forced to retreat a further 1 to 1.5 kilometers and had lost tactically important heights. They also reported that some 150 government soldiers had been detained for attempted desertion. Since the end of January, resistance forces in Tavildara have slowly gained ground, pushing government troops out of several villages and taking more than 100 government soldiers prisoner. Tajik defense minister Sherali Hairulloev has admitted that his troops lost "many killed and wounded" in a week of fighting and threatened to use combat aircraft against the insurgents as soon as the weather permits.
The aircraft and crews are evidently Russian, as the Tajik government forces are not known to possess an air force. In the second half of last year, Russian aircraft with Russian crews repeatedly attacked Tavildara villages believed to be sheltering guerrillas. In Dushanbe yesterday, military officials identified the Tajik army’s chief of staff and commander of government troops in Tavildar as Maj. General Nikolai Shcherbatov. They added that Tajikistan’s first deputy defense minister, Maj. General Aleksandr Chubarov, is likely to join Shcherbatov in that operations theater. (13)
The Russian generals are more likely than Tajik government commanders to exploit their troops’ marked superiority in arms and numbers over resistance forces in the mountain region. Those forces have recently been able to take advantage of the intra-regime conflict pitting mainly ethnic Uzbeks against the Kulyab clan, which holds an inordinate share of political and economic power in Tajikistan. The ruling authorities were able to defuse that conflict, however, before Uzbeks and Pamiris could coordinate their actions.