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    Tajik-Kyrgyz Border Conflict – A Six Month Outlook  (July 2022)

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    The Tajik-Kyrgyz dispute over border demarcation and water rights affects the wider central Asian security architecture. The dispute periodically erupts in violence, signalling that the two neighbours are on a collision course.

    KJ-1: It is highly unlikely that Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will reach an agreement over border demarcation and water sharing in the next six months. 

    • Clashes between Tajik and Kyrgyz border troops are common occurrences [source]. The most serious bout of violence occurred last April. Despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire, skirmishes between the two neighbours have steadily increased [source].
    • Over 98% of Tajik energy consumption is provided by hydroelectric dams [source]. Kyrgyzstan similarly obtains over 90% of its energy from hydropower [source]. The Isfara River and its tributaries also support the central Asian agricultural basin.  
    • Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are using alternative cartographic sources to demarcate their boundaries [source].

    KJ-2: It is likely that armed confrontation between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will escalate in the next six months. 

    • Russian brokered ceasefires have largely failed to temper the conflict in recent years. Beyond interstate confrontation, local Kyrgyz and Tajik communities regularly erupt in communal violence [source]. Various factors such as crumbling hydroelectric infrastructure, climate change and ethno-nationalistic impulses are proving to be a toxic admixture [source]. 
    • As the cumulative pressure increases on both governments, either party will find it increasingly difficult to reach an agreement. Discussions between the two countries’ foreign ministers have proven to be ineffective [source].

    KJ-3: It is likely that the Tajik-Kyrgyz border conflict will affect wider instability in central Asia in the next six months.

    • Uzbekistan relies on water from the Kyrgyz and Tajik highlands to sustain its cotton production [source]. This is essential for its economic livelihood.
    • Uzbekistan may be compelled to respond through a variety of means not limited to force. Meanwhile, violent incidents along the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border are still prevalent [source].
    • The Taliban government of Afghanistan is currently in dispute with the Tajiks over issues relating to their own border [source].
    • Additionally, the introduction of Iranian-made combat systems into the region has heightened the level of insecurity which defines the Tajik-Kyrgyz arms race [source]. 
    • While the border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has simmered at a manageable level for decades, last April saw the worst violence erupt since before the establishment of the USSR.

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: July 11, 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University.

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