Tajikistan calls for ‘security belt’ around Afghanistan to combat drug smuggling

By bne IntelIiNews May 9, 2023

Tajikistan has called on member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to establish an independent agency and ring of tight border security to combat drug trafficking from Afghanistan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said he told a high-level meeting of officials from the SCO last week in India that establishing a "safety belt" around Afghanistan was an important matter. Several days previously, a Tajik soldier was killed in a clash between government forces and smugglers in Badakhshan Province.

Tajikistan shares more than 1,300 kilometres of border with Afghanistan, a major producer of drugs despite occasional pledges from the ruling Taliban regime to crack down on poppy cultivation that drives heroin networks and other aspects of drug production and distribution. The country in recent years has seen the rise of a booming crystal meth industry. 

Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, the most openly hostile of Central Asia’s leaders to the Islamist fundamentalists, has several times complained that the country has become a nest of terrorists and dangerous militants who pose a threat to the region, including Russia. He too has called for a security belt to be created around Afghanistan, going so far as to say it should be a “ring of steel”.

The other Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan are Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, while the country also has frontiers with China, Pakistan and Iran.

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