CSTO military reconnaissance units practice fighting ISIS in Tajikistan

25/04/2016 11:28
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DUSHANBE, April 25, 2016, Asia-Plus – Member nations of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have wrapped up their first-ever joint military reconnaissance exercises in Tajikistan where they “eliminated” a make-believe ISIS commander who was plotting to seize power in Central Asia.

The exercises that took place in the Romit Gorge involved 1,500 servicemen Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The purpose of the exercise was to work out joint operations of the CSTO countries' military reconnaissance units.  In one phase, for example, helicopter crews dropped paratroopers close to enemy formations and cut off their lines of communication.  In another, they used their electronic reconnaissance equipment to target enemy communications points.

EurasiaNet.org reports the scenario of the exercise offered ample fodder for cultural and political interpretation.  The fictitious state to whose aid the CSTO was coming was “Turan,” clearly standing in for Tajikistan.  While Turan is an old Iranian word for Central Asia, it's most commonly used today in pan-Turkic contexts.  In one phase of the exercise, field commanders from “Afghania, Pakia, and Sogdia” reportedly held a shura to discuss the seizure of power in “Turan.”  The stand-in for Kyrgyzstan is “Kyzylstan,” far from the first time the name for that country has been mangled, EurasiaNet.org says.

Tajik officers reportedly used the event, and the substantial Russian media coverage of it, to advocate for more Russian aid to their country, which they portrayed as being under siege from radical Islamists. One anonymous “high-ranking official of Tajikistan's security structures” told Kommersant that they have in recent times arrested 200 people who have returned from Syria, and another official (OMON chief Khurshed Muhammadzoda) reportedly said that groups of 100-150 fighters have repeatedly made incursions from Afghanistan into Tajikistan.  If true, that's the first time either of these claims has been reported.

While Tajikistan has been promised $1 billion in Russian military aid, “no one in the country has seen that money,” an unidentified source from Tajikistan's security structures complained.  “They [Russians] treat us like second-class people... if we are CSTO allies, if you acknowledge that we are Russia's southernmost bulwark against drug traffickers and terrorists, then let's cooperate normally.  They look at us like panhandlers, who are begging for guns and ammunition. But we're not shooting birds with that ammunition, we're defending them.”

Meanwhile, anonymous Tajiks also warned Russia that the U.S. and China were preparing to take their place, noting that both have recently given aid of vehicles and weapons.  (And, Kommersant reports, "Representatives of the security structures of Tajikistan are convinced that, in parallel, the U.S. is also giving aid to Islamist radicals on that side of the Afghan border.")

“I fear for the next generation,” concluded a “Tajik officer” to Kommersant, “who will not think of themselves as part of the Russian space, but for whom the main authorities could be the Americans and the Arabs.”


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