Tajikistan and the Afghan Resistance

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 October 2021

Since the takeover of Afghanistan by a coalition of jihadists controlled by Pakistan, the one neighbouring state to vocally object is Tajikistan, which has extended support to the remaining anti-Taliban resistance. This is a reprise of Tajikistan’s role in the 1990s, when it provided a rear base to the United Islamic Front (UIF) or “Northern Alliance”, and was the gateway for the states supporting the UIF, notably Pakistan’s great rival India.

Tajikistan is where the transnational character of Pakistan’s jihadist network in Afghanistan becomes most obvious: in the 1990s, the Islamist revolutionary tide in Afghanistan swept over Tajikistan’s border, triggering a half-decade-long struggle. Even after a tentative settlement in December 1996, the Taliban directly intervened to try to extend the war.

The Tajik civil war re-established Russian dominance in the country. Once Moscow had secured Tajikistan, it moved to push back the jihadists in Afghanistan, supporting the UIF, led by Ahmad Shah Masud, who was an ethnic Tajik, like much of UIF’s senior leadership.

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