DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan has boosted troop numbers on its frontier with Afghanistan, the border guard service said on Wednesday, due to security threats from armed smugglers, kidnappers and Islamist insurgents.
Tajikistan, the poorest country in the former Soviet Union, is worried about Islamist militant groups based in conflict-ridden Afghanistan trying to open a new front in their global holy war.
The border area is also a major route for narcotics from Afghanistan, the world’s main producer of opium used to make heroin, into Central Asia and on to Russia and Europe.
To address the threats, Dushanbe has sent more troops to the border and set up dozens of new outposts, border guard service spokesman Muhammad Ulugkhodzhayev said.
The reinforcements include both professionally trained ensigns and newly drafted conscripts, he said. He declined to provide any absolute or relative numbers.
Separately, border guard commander Rajabali Rakhmonali told state-run newspaper Sadoi Mardum this week that Tajikistan was concerned about a potential spillover from the Afghan fighting.
“Strengthening confrontation between different militant groups, the emergence of terrorists belonging to the ‘Islamic State’ group aggravate the situation, resulting in increased threats,” he said.
The threat of violent Islamism spilling over into ex-Soviet central Asia has grown more acute since NATO pulled most of its forces from Afghanistan, leading to a deterioration in security there.
The risk was brought home by Taliban attacks on the Afghan city of Kunduz, not far from the Tajik border, first last year when attackers briefly seized the city and then again in April when the Taliban launched another offensive.
Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Gareth Jones