This weekend Tajik and Chinese special operations forces will conduct joint counter-terror drills at a mountain training center outside Dushanbe. Asia-Plus reports that over 100 servicemen from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security will join special operations forces from the Tajik Interior Ministry and practice coordinating in a mountainous counter-terror operation.
Interior ministers from Shanghai Cooperation Organization members are in Dushanbe for a meeting this week and will observe the exercise. Those expected to attend include the Interior Ministers of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. The Chinese Minister of Public Security is also expected.
Asia-Plus reported in May that the SCO meeting would focus on cybercrime, as well as law enforcement coordination on transnational crime and trafficking–both of weapons and drugs.
Also occurring in Dushanbe this week, is a meeting of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) defense ministers. In Moscow, CSTO foreign ministers are also meeting.
President Emomali Rahmon’s meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu today reportedly included an exchange of views with the “deterioration of the situation in the northern provinces of Afghanistan” as background. Whether in Dushanbe, Moscow, or Beijing–the topic is security.
Last month, CSTO member states participated in what was called a “snap inspection of combat readiness” and a joint military exercise aimed at testing the group’s Collective Rapid Reaction Force. The 2,500 troops–which hailed from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan–were deployed without prior notice to Tajikistan’s Khatlon province. Among the exercises they conducted was a drill focused on repelling a 700-man mock terrorist invasion.
CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha told AP that the rapid reaction force could deploy within half a day, depending on the situation.
The flurry of meetings help highlight growing regional concern regarding spillover from the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the creeping ghost threat of ISIS–made all the more prominent by the defection of Gulmurod Halimov, Tajikistan’s (now) former commander of OMON, a branch of special police housed under the Interior Ministry. Halimov recently appeared in an ISIS video, railing against Tajikistan’s crackdown on Islam and ranting about infidels in Moscow and Washington. He is the highest profile Tajik to join ISIS in Syria.
It is unclear whether the Interior Ministry forces training with the Chinese this weekend are from OMON–now under new management–as the ministry also directs other internal and border forces.
China’s involvement in the exercise lends credence to the argument that it may be finally taking its own counter-terrorism campaign to a global level, increasing active participation in multilateral efforts throughout the region.