Russia to give Tajikistan multi-billion military aid to fight ISIS
The Kommersant Daily newspaper quoted unnamed sources in the Russian General Staff as saying the amount of planned military aid to Tajikistan could reach 70 billion rubles (over $1.2 billion at current rate) within the next few years.
The arms and equipment would include personal weapons and ammunition, communication systems, aircraft, artillery systems and missiles. Most of the aid will be second hand hardware currently on the Russian forces’ balance, the sources said.
The aid will be rendered within a major program of joint modernization of Tajikistan’s military signed between Moscow and Dushanbe in 2014. The major objective is to strengthen the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The task has become especially vital after the Coalition Forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the growing threat from the so-called Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
In early March, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters Russian intelligence had information about increased activity of IS cells near the southern borders of the Russian Federation, and in particular near the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. To counter the threat, Russia has beefed up its military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the official added.
“We received confirmation the Islamic State is making contacts with terrorists in Russia’s North Caucasus. We will bear this in mind when we make decisions aimed at strengthening Russia’s security and protection of its borders,” he noted. The growth of territories occupied by IS in Libya also caused particular concern, as well as the start of mass executions in that country.
The head of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said in a March press interview that the Russian Federation planned to coordinate the additional steps in combating IS with partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (the Eurasian military-political bloc uniting China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan).
Patrushev also said Russia was interested in cooperation with the United States in the common fight against the Islamic State. He added the existing exchange of intelligence data was already helping to achieve positive results.
Russia is currently maintaining a 7,000-strong military base near Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, the largest Russian military contingent in Central Asia and one of the strongest units in the region. In 2013, Tajikistan agreed not to charge rent for the base, in return for major Russian aid to its military forces and drug enforcement agency, delivered in weapons and hardware.