An interview with Tajik Defense Minister Sherali KharulloyevKHARULLOYEV SHERALI KHAIRULLOYEVICH WAS BORN ON NOVEMBER 8, 1949, IN THE DANGARIN DISTRICT OF THE KULYAB REGION (TAJIKISTAN). GRADUATED FROM THE ECONOMIC FACULTY OF THE TAJIK STATE UNIVERSITY IN 1970 TO BE CALLED UP INTO THE INTERIOR MINISTRY STRUCTURES. ROSE FROM AN INTERNAL TROOPS PLATOON COMMANDER TO DEPUTY TAJIK INTERIOR MINISTER (IN 1998). DEFENSE MINISTER SINCE APRIL 1995. MARRIED WITH TWO CHILDREN.
Question: Could you please outline the most important clauses of the military doctrine of your country or of other documents defining major defense principles?
Answer: The most important principles in this sphere are specified by the law “On Defense” according to which the Armed Forces are playing the foremost role in protection of the country’s territorial integrity. The Republic of Tajikistan is a peace-loving country without any territorial grudges against anybody. Our foreign policy rests on our earnest desire to see all regional and global conflicts resolved, and cultural and economic contacts with all countries of the region progressing. Out to build a democratic a secular state based on the rule of law, we want to be friends with every country of the world. And this truly people’s wish is specified by our Constitution.
Question: Actually, very little time passed since formation of the Tajik army, and of course, it couldn’t have been formed out of nothing. Could you please say a few words about phases of its creation and reorganization, about problems it has faced?
Answer: Tajik Armed Forces were formed in the year 1993 when the hostilities were at their height and when we didn’t have any materiel worth mentioning. Units and formations of the Popular Front were transformed into the regular army in late 1993.
Creation of the Armed Forces was taking place in the midst of hostilities. In the winter of 1993-1994 Defense Ministry units seized virtually all territory of the country and their advance was checked at the administrative border of the Gorny Badakhshan on the decision of the Government. In 1994 and 1995 we made an emphasis on quality – training officers at the Tajik military college and at Russian military educational establishments. The year 1996. Construction of the regular army continued, while the hostilities with enemies of the Constitutional regime were steadily gaining in intensiveness on several directions at once. The following year peaceful processes began in Tajikistan. Apparatus of the Senior Military Advisor was formed at the Defense Ministry on the basis of inter-governmental agreements between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tajikistan. Furthermore, additional accords were signed on assignment of Russian military advisors to heads of the leading directorates of the Defense Ministry and General Staff, and to commanders of units and formations. It is with them present and helping that we began the second, peaceful phase of the Armed Forces creation.
The second phase stipulates a thorough improvement of all branches of the service, creation of an effective system of command, deployment of a system of operational training of all command bodies and troops as such.
Question: Are other force structures (like the National Guard, Border Troops, civilian defense, etc) in the Defense Ministry’s jurisdiction, or is there a different system in Tajikistan? Does the regular army intend to absorb armed formations of the opposition?
Answer: Jurisdiction of the Defense Ministry does not extend to other force structures. They all answer directly to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, to the President in other words.
General Accord on peace and national consent envisages reintegration of former warriors of the armed formations of the opposition into all force structures, Defense Ministry included. They need only to volunteer and submit to qualification tests and a thorough medical examination.
Question: Not long ago National Guard units suppressed the riot in the Leninabad region and the media is of the opinion that they were quite successful. Do you think they have something to thank the regular army for?
Answer: When the crisis in the Leninabad region evolved, units of the regular army were among the first to be dispatched to the troublesome area and took the most active part in the fighting against enemies of the Constitutional regime. Actually, I can say that units of the Presidential Guard and Internal Troops of the Interior Ministry acted in close cooperation with the Defense Ministry’s.
Question: Are the Armed Forces going to participate in resolution of other inter-Tajik conflicts (ethnic, political, social, etc)?
Answer: The fact is, resolution of domestic conflicts is not a function of the Defense Ministry. The rebellion in the Leninabad region was provoked from abroad, hence our active participation in its resolution.
Question: What can you say about the numerical strength of the Armed Forces? Their structure, armament, etc?
Answer: In accordance with the decree of the Tajik president and decision of the Majlis Oli (the parliament), our Armed Forces are supposed to have about 12,200 servicemen in three branches – Ground Forces, Anti-Aircraft Forces, and Air Force. The Armed Forces possess armored vehicles, artillery pieces and firearms, anti-aircraft canons, aircraft and other special equipment the Soviet Army had once been equipped with. Combat deployment of the troops is executed in accordance with the tactics outlined in battle codes and regulations analogous to Russian military documents.
Question: What share of the GDP does the military budget in your country amount to? Could you please say a few words about its structure? Are there any socioeconomic problems the regular army is facing? What are the most pressing of them, and how are they being handled?
Answer: The military budget does not exceed 3% of the GDP and envisages the funding of all force structures we have in this country. And as for the socioeconomic problems… Shortly speaking, the most pressing of them and the ways they are being handled are analogous to the problems the Russian Armed Forces are facing, these days. First and foremost, that’s the financial problems of course – from buying armaments and equipment to paying salaries, and putting aside some reserves. We do not have any problems with staffing, but are nevertheless worried over the quality of the conscripted contingent. And of course, there are some who try to dodge the draft.
Question: What about ethnic problems in the Armed Forces? How many representatives of the indigenous population, Tajiks in other words, serve in the Armed Forces as conscripts? How many Tajik officers do you have in the regular army?
Answer: We do not have any ethnic problems. I’m so confident because over the last twelve months we didn’t register a single ethnic crime or accident. The same goes for the officers’ corps. We have never divided our servicemen into representatives of indigenous population and others. Everybody living on the territory of the country is a Tajik, as far as we are concerned, and that is precisely why it is impossible to say how many indigenous inhabitants serve in the regular army. We all are inhabitants of one and the same country.
Question: Could you please outline major directions of the international military cooperation? What countries of the world does Tajikistan maintain and facilitate contacts in the military sphere with? What role does Russia play in this cooperation?
Answer: Major directions of the Russian-Tajik military cooperation are determined by the treaties and agreements signed by our countries. Some of them are confidential, while contents of others are available to the general public. These documents cover the training of officers at military educational establishments of the Russian Defense Ministry, and training of low-level military specialists at the Russian training centers. During the visit of the Chief of the Russian General Staff to Tajikistan – on his own initiative, by the way – a special training company was formed at the 201st Motorized Infantry Division of the Russian army. Its officers and sergeants are Russians (they serve there permanently), and rank-and-file are Tajiks who are constantly replaced. Officers of the 201st Motorized Infantry Division, Russian military advisors, and officials of the Senior Military Advisor’s apparatus all take the most active part in the training of low-level military specialists. Joint tactical maneuvers of units of the Tajik regular army and 201st Motorized Infantry Division are a new form of cooperation. In 1998, for example, we conducted a whole series of such maneuvers involving live-fire shooting exercises, deployment of aviation, and the landing of forces. Our officers are always invited to the conferences conducted for the officers’ corps of the 201st Motorized Infantry Division before every training cycle. We are repairing the equipment and armament of the Tajik regular army with the help of Russian military advisors and specialists of the 201st Division.
Along with that, we maintain close contacts with defense ministries of other countries of the Central Asian region. Tajik Defense Ministry participates in the work of the CIS Council of Defense Ministers and the Military Cooperation Coordinating Headquarters.
Question: Your opinion of the perspectives of Russian-Tajik military and military-technical cooperation?
Answer: Of course, in the sphere of military and military-technical cooperation with foreign countries Russia is our number one partner. As I see it, both our countries believe that this cooperation has some long-range perspectives. Our cooperation gets smoother with each passing year, new and new directions of military and military-technical cooperation appear after every meeting of heads of our defense ministries and states.
Question: Are there any Russians in your army and vice versa? If there are, what official documents exist?
Answer: Under the acting legislation, only inhabitants of Tajikistan are called up into the Armed Forces. Foreigners’ service in the Armed Forces is not stipulated by what laws we have.
Question: Do you plan participation in the CIS Joint AAD System? A few words please, if you do.
Answer: Tajik Defense Ministry is actively cooperating with other countries in this sphere. In creation and perfection of the CIS Joint AAD System, I mean. We’ve made a number of important moves in preservation of control over air space, notification, and cooperation within the framework of the general anti-aircraft defense system of the Commonwealth. We have our representatives at the CIS Military Cooperation Coordinating Headquarters. In accordance with the general plan of work of the coordinating center, they handle this particular problem as well.
Question: How helpful is the apparatus of the Senior Military Advisor in the training and formation of your troops? What can you say about its tasks, functions, goals, etc?
Answer: The first Russian officers and Generals arrived in Tajikistan to staff the apparatus of the Senior Military Advisor last May, and the first Russian military advisors for the troops started arriving in October, 1997. With their help it took us less then a year to organize planned work of command bodies on all levels and to increase operational and combat readiness of the troops. We can even say that the respect commanded by the Defense Ministry in the eyes of the people and the government grew up considerably. Many youths specify that they want to serve precisely at the units of the Defense Ministry. Russian officers and generals command unquestionable respect in this country. Allow me to use this chance and express my sincere gratitude to leadership of the Defense Ministry and General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for the impeccable and excellent selection of military advisors who share their experience and help train officers and troops of the Tajik regular army.