Staunton, June 11 – Many regional experts say that Tajikistan is the Central Asian country ISIS forces are most likely to attack, not only because the population is likely to be receptive to its appeals against corruption and for social justice but also because the Tajikistan army is too weak and underfunded to be able to defend against any attack.
“The present-day army of the country cannot defend its security against such a destructive force as ISIS,” Dmitry Avdeyev writes on CentrAsia.ru. “But the biggest problem is the absence of trust of the population which could rise up on the side” of ISIS against “the current powers” there.
Many authoritarian regimes are able to defend themselves against foreign threats even if they are deeply unpopular at home by ensuring the funding and status of their militaries. But Dushanbe, the capital and largest city of Tajikistan, has not done either, Avdeyev points out. Its army is rated the weakest in Central Asia largely because there is little money for its strengthening.
At least some of its soldiers are likely to desert in the event of an ISIS attack given “the lack of unity and support of the citizens,” a shortcoming that reflects the growing social inequality in the country, the massive corruption at all levels, and witch hunts by the authorities against anyone they suspect of disloyalty.
The Tajikistan government is very much worried that “young people who are now fighting in the ranks of the militants in a short time will return home and bring to their motherland the idea of a war with the infidel and of the construction of a caliphate.” The regime says that there are 144 of its citizens fighting in Afghanistan and it has brought in absentia charges against them. Only 12 are currently in custody.
It isn’t clear how successful that program will be. Indeed, Avdeyev says, the impression exists that “in Tajikistan instead of struggling with problems, the authorities are generating them and thus creating greater danger for the country. As a result, the smallest attempt to generate instability inside the country could become the beginning of the next civil war.”