Tajik troops to conclude military exercises on Afghan border

Tajik military forces will today conclude exercises in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO). GBAO—a mountainous province bordering Afghanistan, China

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Photo: REUTERS/Parwiz

Tajik military forces will today conclude exercises in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).

GBAO—a mountainous province bordering Afghanistan, China and Kyrgyzstan—has long posed security challenges to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s authoritarian regime by hosting his political opponents. The province is largely ruled by a group of local power brokers called “the Authorities” who have embedded themselves within GBAO by pledging to protect local cultures and providing illicit jobs to the undeveloped region.

Now, as Rahmon signals an end to his 28-year presidency, securing GBAO has become paramount in ensuring a peaceful transition of power. However, as clashes in 2012 resulted in a stalemate between Authorities and Tajik forces, it is clear Rahmon lacks the power to forcefully remove the group.

Expect the current military exercises to end without issue as the Authorities do not wish to escalate tensions. Instead, given the pandemic-related economic downturn, it is likely that the Authorities will expand their influence by continuing to aid locals through illicit employment. In response, Rahmon will likely secure his presidency for another year, claiming the heightened insecurity precludes a power transition. It is, however, unlikely Rahmon will mount another military offensive against the Authorities in GBAO in the short term given prior failures contributing to a loss of legitimacy in the region. Over the long term, the Authorities will continue to maintain their defensive posture and control of GBAO through local support.

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