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Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 11:29:49 -0500
Sender: Former Soviet Republic - Central Asia Political Discussion List <CENASIA@VM1.MCGILL.CA>
Subject: Tajikistan Crisis and Russian Oil Report

Peacekeeping Mandate Extended in Tajikistan Amid Deadlock in Negotiations and Rise in Tension

Brightstar Bulletin, February 1996

At the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit, the heads of state extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force in Tajikistan until June 30, 1996. The force consists of Russia's 201st motorized and rifle division, and token Uzbek, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz units including troops performing border guard duty along the Tajik-Afghan border, Russia reportedly has 25,000 troops in Tajikistan. Despite the extension of the mandate, recent events point greater tension in the Central Asian country. In 1992 , Russian support helped Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov defeat a coalition of pro-democratic and Islamist opposition forces and drive them into Afghanistan. The opposition forces continue to launch attacks against Tajik and Russian troops.

For over three years, a series of negotiations under U.N. mediation has attempted to resolve the dispute, but each one has collapsed. A fifth round of talks in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan failed to begin on January 22. On the day before negotiations were set to begin, Tajikistan's highest religious official, Mufti Fathullo Sharifzoda, was assassinated in his home in Dushanbe by unknown gunmen. The Tajik government blamed opposition forces, while opposition leader Akbar Torajonzoda also condemned the act, denied any involvement, and blamed the killing on forces seeking to derail the peace negotiations.

Tajikistan has also been wracked by a series of internal crises which have increased tensions in the country. On January 28, in Tursunzoda, a city on the Uzbekistan border, rebels loyal to Tajik military leader Ibod Boymatov seized a border post, capturing weapons and ammunition, and called for the resignation of the Tajik government.

On January 26, mutinous soldiers loyal to Mahmud Khudoberdiyev, commander of the Tajik army 11th brigade, captured a police and customs house in the regional capital of Kurgan-Tyube. According to interior ministry officials, Khudoberdiyev eventually surrendered his weapons and dropped his demand that the government resign and Russian peacekeepers leave the country. The situation in Tajikistan is deteriorating with increased tension between the government and opposition forces and a collapse of government authority in the country. On January 27, Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev warned that if civil war erupts in Tajikistan, Russia would reinforce its troops in the country. Moscow will ensure it has enough forces in Tajikistan to maintain a grip on power.

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