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Turf on the roof of the world

Towards the end of July 2012, the government of Tajikistan responded to the stabbing of the head of the National Security Committee in the Mountainous Badakhshan Autonomous Province, on the border with Afghanistan, with a particularly heavy Special Operation. In response to a murder, why was it necessary to send an entire battalion and risk alienating an important minority group, the Pamiris, during the month of Ramadan, a month after the country celebrated unity 15 years after the signing of the Peace Accord, and a year before presidential elections?

This paper analyses four ulterior objectives that authorities may have sought directly or indirectly in launching a brief but forceful but assault on the province: (1) forced recentralisation and the sidelining of renegade field commanders who had once been included in the government through the 1997 Peace Accord but were now commanding too much autonomy and control in competition with the centre; (2) turf war over the distribution of profits from legal and illicit trade that had been allowed to go on unrestrained in border regions; (3) gaining sympathy for efforts to contain instability in Afghanistan and sending a warning sign against the potential trespassing, not of Afghan Taliban per se, but of Central Asian jihadists and control over any future profits from transit over the Northern Distribution Network route, legal or otherwise; and finally (4) to portray control in order to up the ante in negotiations over the territory of the country in base arrangements anticipated after the 2014 withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan and any advantages that could befall from the exit.

Last modified: 05.10.2012