TAJIKISTAN AND THE PROBLEM OF DRUG TRAFFICKING

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At a meeting of the heads of the CIS border guard departments in Tbilisi on July 6, the Tajik and Russian border guard departments initialed an agreement on further cooperation and conditions of passing over the control over the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajik border guards. The border guard committee of the Tajik government states that it will take the Pamirs sector of the Tajik-Afghan border under its control in August 2004. Tajik border guards will control the responsibility zone of the Moscow border guard unit starting from 2005. The Pyandzh border guard unit will pass over its functions and duties to Tajik servicemen in 2006.

Russian specialists say that the situation with drug trafficking on the Tajik-Afghan border may worsen in the near future. Politicians, leaders of the Organization of the collective security treaty and UN representatives agree with them. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN drug and crime department, expressed his concern about the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border in May 2004.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Duma international committee, noted that Tajikistan exerts pressure on Russia, aiming to make Russian border guards leave the republic within a year.

The border guard department of the Russian FSB stated that this is not true. The FSB notes that the control over the Tajik border will be passed over to Tajikistan only in 2006. An operational group of the Russian border guard department stationed in Dushanbe will remain in the republic. Tajik sources say that Russian military advisors will work in military commandant’s offices and border guard units.

In the meantime, the issue of protection of the Tajik-Afghan border remains topical. Lieutenant-General Alexander Manilov, deputy director of the border guard service of the Russian FSB, recently stated: “Some people ask: will drug trafficking increase after Russian border guards pass over their functions to their Tajik counterparts? We do not rule out such possibility. It is possible that the situation on the state border will change. However, it’s the task of the Tajik leadership to retain stability.”

In other words, the situation prompts several conclusions. Firstly, it’s not Russia’s decision to pass over the control over the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajik servicemen. Secondly, the Russian leadership has finally agreed to pass over the control over the border to Tajik border guards. To all appearances, the Kremlin made this decision after Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with his Tajik counterpart Imomali Rakhmonov in Sochi on June 4. In addition, the leaders discussed the status of a Russian military base and firing ranges in Tajikistan. The presidents agreed that Russia will use this infrastructure free of charge. In return, Russia made concessions in the economic sector. In particular, the presidents found a solution to the problem of Tajikistan’s debt to Russia.

Let’s take a look at the cost of these agreements. Tajikistan owes $299 million to Russia. It is evident that Russia will have to spend much more on creating its border with Tajikistan. Drug dealers move to Russia from Tajikistan via Kazakhstan. The length of the border with this republic is 7,500 kilometers. This sector of the border is open. It takes $100,000 to $1 million to equip one kilometer of the border with the necessary security systems. In other words, Russia’s concessions will entail substantial expenses on combating drug trafficking. It should be noted that the amount of drugs illegally transported to Russia and Europe is increasing from year to year.

The UN states that production of heroin in Afghanistan will increase in 2004. Experts state that this country can produce 4,600 tons of heroin. Around 80% of drugs will be sent to Europe and the US via Tajikistan and other Central Asian republics. General Manilov reports that Russian border guards seized 4,881 kg of drugs (including 2.5 tons of heroin) on the Tajik border in 2002, and 6,304 kg of drugs (including around three tons of heroin) in 2003.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Safonov recently stated that as of June 1, 2004 Russian border guards seized around 960 kg of drugs, including 530 kg of heroin. No comment.

In other words, the Kremlin does not rule out that drug trafficking to the CIS and Europe will increase when Russian border guards pass over their functions to Tajik border guards. Unfortunately, not everyone understands negative consequences of this problem…

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