America Is Moving Islamist Militants to the Borders of Tajikistan

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Gulmurod Khalimov and John Mark Pommersheim

On January 28th the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia Igor Zubov reported that unknown helicopters transported ISIS militants from Pakistan on the border with Tajikistan towards the southern borders of the Russian Federation. “Probably, large-scale provocations are planned there in the hope of extrude a large number of refugees, with all consequences, towards Russia,” specified the Deputy Minister.

Earlier, in July 2018, the ambassador of Russia in Afghanistan Aleksandr Mantytsky brought similar information to the public: The US transferred militants from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan by helicopters that were without identification marks.

And in October 2018 the Tajik “Akhbor” website reported that the “Minister of War” of ISIS Gulmurod Khalimov moved to Afghanistan and prepares an invasion of Tajikistan. The former Colonel of the Tajik OMON Khalimov in the spring of 2015 joined ISIS and in 2017 led the defence of Mosul. He received training at anti-terrorist courses in the US, in particular in training camps of the American Blackwater PMC, and is considered to be a master of guerrilla warfare. According to estimates, the number of militants of Khalimov reaches 6,000 people. He is the commander of the Vilayet Khorasan – an ISIS branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On January 26th, after several days of negotiations in Qatar with leaders of the Taliban, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad expressed optimism concerning the fact that an agreement on the termination of nearly two decades of military operations in the country gripped by war is not far off.

On the condition of anonymity, representatives of the Taliban reported to Associated Press that they had reached an agreement on the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from their country. They also claim that won’t plan attacks on the US and their allies from Afghan land any more. At the same time, Talibs declare that a deal is impossible until the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is complete.

“The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals…” said Zalmay Khalilzad, as quoted by the Afghan “Pajhwok Afghan News” news agency. “The key for finding the solutions for Afghan problems is in the hands of Afghans now”.

The statement of the special representative of the US in Afghanistan about the success of negotiations with Talibs coincided with the information of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs I. Zubov about the transferral of ISIS militants from Pakistan on the Afghan border with Tajikistan.

In November of last year Vest Point the leading expert of the anti-terrorist center of the American military academy “West Point” Damon Mehl reported on their website about the strengthening of the threat of the infiltration of terrorists on the territory of Tajikistan. “Loss of Islamic State territory in Iraq and Syria may force the movement of the significant numbers of Tajik citizens fighting there…” he wrote. “Tajik jihadis have increased their stature among global terrorist groups over the past two decades, thus making assistance from larger terrorist organizations or a renewed jihadi focus on Central Asia increasingly probable”.

Among those who can support the Tajik opposition with “militants and resources”, Damon Mehl also named Gulmurod Khalimov. And on January 27th Mehl posted on Twitter an interview that the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan Muhiddin Kabiri did with the “Svoboda” radio station, in which he called for the unification of all forces that are in opposition to the ruling regime.

Tajikistan already started preparing for the presidential elections that are supposed to take place in 2020. “The outcome, at this juncture, is predictable: either another victory for 66-year-old President Emomali Rahmon or, if he’s not feeling up to it, for his son Rustam, the mayor of Dushanbe or another close ally,” writes the American “Diplomat” publication, without excluding other options for the development of the situation.

Apparently, in the US the 53-year-old Muhiddin Kabiri is considered to be the leader who it is possible to place a stake on in case the situation in the republic becomes chaotic. Tension is being provoked on Pamir, in the Gorno-Badakhshan region (GBAO). The Tajik branch of radio “Svoboda” constantly spreads information about all, even the most insignificant, meetings or disorder in Khorog, and American media outlets note that, “the central government has spent the two decades that have elapsed since the end of the civil war in the 1990s trying to reassert total dominance over all the country’s regions. GBAO, which is geographically remote and largely inhabited by the ethnically and religiously distinct Pamiris, has managed in many ways to resist those efforts, however”.

Soon the new ambassador of the US in Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim, who on the official website of State department is characterised as “talented officer who has devoted his 28-year career to service in Europe and Asia, including the former Soviet Union, advancing U.S. priorities ranging from counterterrorism to promoting U.S. business”, will arrive in Dushanbe. Pommersheim is among the best specialists in Russian philology of the State Department, he also knows the German, Chinese, Japanese, and Kazakh languages. He was educated at Bucknell University and Columbia University; after that, having won a grant from the US Secretary of Defence, he studied at the Pushkin Language Institute. In the 1980’s Pommersheim worked at the United States Information Agency (USIA). He was transferred to Tajikistan after working in the US Embassy in Kazakhstan. He knows the Caucasus: as the Tajik website “Orien” reports, “he was responsible for the management of a full range of relations between the US and Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia”.

The signs saying that the US is going to use its strategy of “hard power” ​​​​​on Tajikistan accumulate, having connected the white ribbon protest to “revolutionary” jihad and, perhaps, mutiny of criminal elements. Muhiddin Kabiri in this case will head the political opposition, and the “leaders of Pamir”, as radio “Svoboda” the drug dealers of Gorno-Badakhshan, will ensure the criminal mutiny supported by Gulmurod Khalimov’s militants.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan on January 29th declared that it doesn’t possess information about the presence of militants at their borders and considers that the statements about it are premature. According to the ministry, currently “the situation in the northern regions of Afghanistan that directly border the countries of Central Asia is intense, but nevertheless it is under the complete control of Tajik border services”.

In turn, the press secretary of the border troops of the State National Security Committee of Tajikistan Muhammad Ulugkhodzhaev emphasised: “If the situation is provoked and aggravated for the worse, the Republic of Tajikistan is the member of such organisations as the CSTO and SCO, and all questions are worked out beforehand”. The existing agreement on rendering necessary military aid to a CTSO member state indeed guarantee the effective repulsion of any attempts by jihadists to infiltrate the republics of Central Asia.

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