Taliban, terrorist groups ‘set to destabilise Central Asia within six weeks’

Taliban, terrorist groups ‘set to destabilise Central Asia within six weeks’
There is concern that Tajikistan might face ISIS and Al-Qaeda infiltration from Badakhshan province (shaded) in northeastern Afghanistan. / OpenStreetMap Foundation, cc-by-sa 2.0
By bne IntelIiNews March 7, 2022

Sources close to military intelligence in a Central Asian nation indicate that Central Asia, in particular Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, is set to be destabilised in the next four to six weeks with possible Taliban military moves and the infiltration of Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda militants, according to a US think tank.

In a research note, the Robert Lansing Institute stated: “They say more than 40 facilities and training camps have intensified their activity near Tajikistan border, with more than 5,000 militants from various terrorist groups being there. Social crisis in Afghanistan, amid shortage of food, essential commodities, medicines and lack of professionals in all sectors, makes the Taliban look for popular support.

“It was predicted in July 2021 that in case of a crisis the Taliban could resort to military operations abroad to mobilize the people, and to replace economic growth with expansionism. An army of about 150,000 people formed by the Taliban is a sign of that scenario.”

There is potential, according to the non-partisan, non-governmental institute “that ISIS and Al-Qaeda militants might infiltrate, in April-May, from Badakhshan [in northeastern Afghanistan and eastern Tajikistan] to destabilize the situation in Tajikistan. Accordingly, they are likely to enter the Ferghana Valley, heading to Kazakhstan and Russia”.

The note also observed that it was “verified that Islamic State members actively buy false passports of Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to leave Syria. The most popular passports of Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan cost from five to six thousand dollars”.

The Kremlin responded to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year by beefing up the largest permanent military base it has abroad, namely in post-Soviet Tajikistan.

Persian-speaking, officially secular Tajikistan and the Islamic fundamentalist, primarily Pashtun Taliban are essentially foes. Tajiks make up the second-largest ethnicity in Afghanistan but have no representation in the Taliban Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan government. The leaders of the largely Tajik anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) are believed to have sought refuge in Tajikistan. Like the NRF and Tajikistan, Iran takes a role in protecting the interests of the Persian-speaking minorities of Afghanistan.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said in early January that thousands of militants were located near his country’s northeastern border with Afghanistan, stating: "Overall, according to the intelligence of Tajikistan, there are over 40 camps and terrorist training centres in Afghanistan’s northeastern provinces, which house over 6,000 militants."

He made the comment during an emergency virtual summit of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance called to address the mass unrest seen in Kazakhstan at the turn of the year.

In February, RFE/RL reported that the Taliban-led Afghan Defence Ministry had established several new military units in three border provinces in Afghanistan’s north, northeast and west, deploying a total of 4,400 additional troops in what it described as a move to strengthen security in the regions.