On the 18th of May 2022, the Tajik government began an anti-terror operation in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region (GBAO). The operation was in response to protests that had erupted four days prior in Khorog, the capital of GBAO. There is tension between the indigenous Pamir people who inhabit GBAO and the Tajik government since the early 1990s. The Tajik government has been highly persecutive of the Pamirs due to their separate religious beliefs, language, and culture. Additionally, speaking out and protesting the government typically end with civilian casualties or extraordinary rendition.
KJ-1. The anti-terror operation is likely a pretext to begin target political opponents of the Tajik Government over the next 12 months.
- The protests were in support of a meeting between Pamir leaders announcing a list of demands for the Tajik government: The resignation of the government-appointed regional leader, the release of everyone arrested in connection with protests, and an end to kidnapping of Pamiri people for their alleged involvement in opposition activities. (Source)
- The Tajik government has a long track record of utilizing extrajudicial methods to enforce its will. An estimated 15 people with Pamiri connections have been extradited or “disappeared”. Additionally, Tajikistan has strong ties with the Kremlin which it uses against political opponents outside its borders. (Source)
- The government turned off the region’s access to the internet and has been throttling cellular communications. This indicates that the government is trying to prevent the spread of information about what is happening in the region. (Source, Source)
KJ-2. If Russia removes its troops, there is a realistic probability that the Pamir and the Taliban may form an uneasy alliance against the Tajik government within the next 12 months.
- The Tajik government is reliant on Russian military and economic assistance. Tajikistan houses 7,000 Russian troops who are part of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO). Tajikistan needs these troops for the security of its southern border with Afghanistan. As a result of the Ukraine conflict, these forces may be recalled. (Source, Source)
- Tajikistan was the only regional nation to condemn the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. As a result, both the Taliban and the Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) have significant animosity towards Tajikistan. (Source)
- The Taliban has been looking to expand their influence outside of Afghanistan. Subsequently, the Taliban has been spreading propaganda aimed at influencing Central Asian Countries. (Source)
- The Tajik government has recognized the threat these groups pose. Subsequently, they began to increase military exercises with the Russians along its Afghan border. (Source, Source)
KJ-3. Despite international condemnation, it is likely that Tajikistan will begin to align themselves with anti-Western nations.
- Tajikistan owes US$3.2 billion in debt, US1.2 billion it owes to China for Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” projects. As a result of this debt, Tajikistan will need to find countries willing to help them economically. (Source)
- China and Tajikistan have already begun cooperating economically but both want to expand the partnership. Subsequently, the countries are looking to develop partnerships in developing energy technologies, cultural exchanges, education, and healthcare. (Source)
- Iran has built a military drone factory in Tajikistan to prevent Israeli strikes on their factories. As a result, the two countries hope to bolster defense cooperation into other arenas. (Source)
Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 20th of June 2022