Russia moves to defuse border tensions between Tajikistan and Taliban regime in Afghanistan
Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon has refused to recognise Taliban rule in Kabul and condemned alleged human rights in the armed movement’s attacks on rebel-held Panjshir province.
The Taliban has warned Dushanbe against involvement in Afghan domestic affairs.
Afghan deputy prime minister Abdul Salaam Hanafi told Al-Jazeera this week that Tajikistan must not meddle in Afghan affairs.
“We will not allow any neighbouring nation to interfere in the internal matters of Afghanistan,” he told the broadcaster.
Tajikistan is reported to be offering a haven and assistance to exiled Afghan groups opposed to Taliban rule in Kabul.
More than a quarter of the Afghan population is ethnically Tajik, while the largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, largely make up the Taliban.
Tajikistan has made repeated demands that a future Afghan government includes more ethnic-Tajik representatives.
“We observe with concern the growing tensions in Tajik-Afghan relations amid mutually strong statements by the leadership of the two countries,” Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said, according to the state-run Tass agency.
He said the Taliban was claiming to have deployed thousands of special forces personnel to Takhar province near the Tajik border. Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi denied its forces were building on the Tajik border, according to the Russian media.
Russia has a military base in Tajikistan. Russia’s Central Military District on September 30 said personnel from its 201st base were training in Tajikistan’s mountains to simulate an invasion by an “unlawful armed formation”.
The Tajik military held parades in two provinces bordering Afghanistan this week.
Rahmon criticised the Taliban in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 23, warning that “various terrorist groups are actively using the unstable military-political situation in Afghanistan in order to strengthen their positions”.
“We are seriously concerned and regret that Afghanistan is once again on its way to becoming a platform for international terrorism,” the president said.
The Taliban has replied that Rahmon has ruled Tajikistan for 27 years, suggesting the former Soviet state is in no position to lecture Afghanistan on democracy.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed concern for US-trained pilots and other military personnel from Afghanistan being held in Tajikistan who fled across the border in August to avoid the Taliban.
As the Taliban seized power, Afghan air force personnel flew numerous aircraft to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and were detained.
The Tajik government has not welcomed the return of the Taliban. Picture credit: Wikimedia