Tajikistan

Overview:  Tajikistan shares an 843-mile border with Afghanistan, and after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August, Tajikistan’s government redoubled its counterterrorism efforts.  In 2021, the U.S. government moved forward with plans to renovate and build border outposts along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and provided equipment, such as offroad vehicles, and training to enhance Tajikistan’s counterterrorism capabilities.  Tajikistan participates in exercises with the United States and regional partners, including the annual security exercise Regional Cooperation, which it is scheduled to host in 2022.

In 2021, Tajikistan conducted more than 50 bilateral engagements with the U.S. Department of Defense.  Russia agreed to fund construction of an outpost along the Afghan border and reportedly worked with Tajikistan to re-equip the country’s army.  Tajikistan participated in counterterrorism-focused exercises with Russia, other Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member states, and the People’s Republic of China.  The government asserted that northern Afghanistan was a primary source of terrorist activity and host to thousands of militants.  Six terrorist incidents, including two attacks, were reported in Tajikistan in 2021.  Tajikistan cooperates with regional and international organizations, such as the EU, the OSCE, and the UN on combating terrorism.

2021 Terrorist Incidents:  According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there were two terrorist attacks and four attempted terrorist attacks in 2021.  Authorities implicated the banned opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan and ISIS-affiliated groups in the planning of several attempted attacks but did not supply further details regarding these or other incidents.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  On December 23, Tajikistan adopted a Law on Combating Terrorism, which superseded the 1999 counterterrorism law.  The law defines basic counterterrorism principles and establishes Tajikistan’s legal and organizational framework for counterterrorism efforts.

New elements in the 2021 law include frameworks for:  1) informational efforts to combat terrorism, 2) protection of individuals and facilities, particularly critical infrastructure, and 3) countering terrorist financing.  The law lays the foundation for counterterrorism operations and international counterterrorism cooperation.  The law names the following state entities as directly involved in combating terrorism:  the State Committee on National Security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO), the Ministry of Defense, the Agency on State Financial Control and the Fight Against Corruption, the Drug Control Agency, the National Guard, and the Committee on Emergency Situations and Civil Defense.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that it identified 579 members of terrorist or “extremist” organizations in 2021 and arrested 339, including dozens of alleged proponents of Salafi Islam and members of banned opposition groups.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported cooperation with foreign partners in the detention and repatriation of 50 members of terrorist and extremist organizations.  Also in 2021, 75 members of extremist organizations or participants in hostilities abroad were voluntarily repatriated to Tajikistan and pardoned, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On December 8, the Tajik Parliament’s lower house ratified a joint air defense agreement with Russia that defense officials said would help counter growing regional threats, such as terrorist use of unmanned aerial systems.  The agreement’s initial term reportedly is five years.

The OSCE’s Border Management Staff College held a November roundtable in Dushanbe on security threats to Central Asia from Afghanistan.  Participants from Tajik government agencies, civil society, diplomatic missions, international organizations, and foreign militaries exchanged views on strengthening border security cooperation.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Tajikistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, and the National Bank of Tajikistan’s (NBT’s) Financial Monitoring Department is a member of the Egmont Group.  The Government of Tajikistan continued its efforts to improve the banking sector’s capacity to combat terrorism financing in 2021.  Tajikistan adheres to FATF requirements and has made various commitments to this body.  The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported 15 cases of terrorist financing in 2021.

The Financial Monitoring Department website maintained a list of individuals and entities allegedly involved in terrorism, including those sanctioned under UNSC resolutions.  Press have reported that the NBT’s list includes opposition activists and journalists in exile.  The NBT continued to operate a national money transfer center that centralized the receipt of remittances from abroad.  The NBT asserted that this system allowed it to monitor and regulate alternative remittance services, wire transfers, and nonprofit organizations to prevent terrorist financing.

Countering Violent Extremism:  In June, Tajikistan’s president approved the national strategy on countering “extremism” and terrorism for 2021-25 and the action plan for its implementation.

Hedayah, an internationally-backed CVE center of excellence, in 2021 began a project to assist Tajikistan with implementing its CVE National Action Plan and developing an effective communications strategy to counter radicalization to violence and recruitment of FTFs.

Tajikistan amended its criminal laws in 2015, allowing authorities to pardon Tajik FTFs who voluntarily return home from abroad, express remorse for their actions, and renounce ties to foreign terrorist groups.

In January, the Ministry of Justice opened a legal case against the UK-based NGO Saferworld, which had been implementing U.S. Embassy CVE programs since 2018.  In April, a court ruled that Saferworld must shut down its office in Tajikistan because of alleged violations of Tajik laws.

The Tajik government continued to place heavy restrictions on groups it classifies as extremist, including on those groups’ political and religious expression.  On November 15, the U.S. Secretary of State redesignated Tajikistan as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

International and Regional Cooperation:  On November 10, UNODC provided investigations-focused training on countering terrorist financing to officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the NBT, the anticorruption agency, and the PGO.

Tajikistan actively participates in regional security arrangements such as the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  On May 19, Dushanbe, as part of its 2021 chairmanship, hosted the CSTO’s Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, where participants discussed cooperation to ensure regional security by strengthening the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and combating terrorism, extremism, and transnational organized crime.

Tajikistan’s government supports the C5+1, a diplomatic platform for coordination among the five Central Asian states plus the United States and serves as co-chair of the C5+1 Security Working Group.

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