Some 5,000 troops from member states of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Oct. 18 initiated military maneuvers code-named "Echelon-2021," Search-2021" and "Interaction-2021" in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan. More than half of the troops involved are Russian. Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, head of the CSTO joint staff, said in a statement: "We pay special attention to the Central Asian region. The situation around the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains the main source of instability. This is why we are holding three drills simultaneously for the first time as part of the joint training."
As the US withdraws and the Taliban advance across large stretches of Afghanistan, women are taking up weapons in local militias to defend their villages. In Ghor province, ethnic Hazara women posed for social-media photos wielding rifles and rocket-launchers, pledging to resist by arms a return to "the dark era of Taliban." With US and NATO forces evacuating Bagram Air Base, prelude to a full withdrawal by Sept. 11, the Taliban are rapidly seizing territory. Since launching a spring offensive, the Taliban have doubled their area of control, and now hold nearly 100 of Afghanistan's 407 districts. In retreat, the central government is calling upon civilians to form militias to fight back.
The armed forces of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan clashed at a disputed section of their border on April 29, leaving 30 dead and thousands displaced before a ceasefire was declared. The fighting broke out near the strategic Golovnoi (also rendered Golovnaya) water pumping facility, in the Tajik-controlled exclave of Vorukh. Kyrgyz protesters gathered on their side of the de facto border after Tajik authorities installed surveillance cameras at the facility. The two sides began hurling rocks at each oher across the line before military troops intervened, and the situation escalated. The Golovnoi facility pumps water from the Isfara River, a tributary of the Syr Darya, to irrigate agriculture in the area. It is in the Fergana Valley, a small fertile pocket in the arid Central Asia region. Soviet authorities drew the boundaries so that Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan each got a portion of it. However, this meant intricate, twisting borders between these nations, and territorial disputes have arisen.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors on Dec. 15 rejected a complaint filed by exiled Uighurs calling for an investigation of China on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; the People's Republic of China, like the United States and Russia, does not recognize the ICC. The office of chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated in a year-end report on preliminary examinations: "This precondition for the exercise of the court's territorial jurisdiction did not appear to be met with respect to the majority of the crimes alleged."
Lawyers have submitted a complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), demanding that an investigation be opened into senior Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed against the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples. The complaint was filed on behalf of the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM).
Recent US raids in Afghanistan have targeted presumed forces of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the supposed Uighur militant network active in China's far-western Xinjiang region. This news comes amid reports that China is preparing to establish a military base in the same region of Afghanistan. On Feb. 6, NATO's Resolute Support said in a press release that US forces in Afghanistan had carried out a series of air-strikes on "Taliban training facilities in Badakhshan province, preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the border with China and Tajikistan by such organizations as the East Turkistan [sic] Islamic Movement and others." Badakhshan province forms a long panhandle between Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south to reach a border with Chinese territory.
Voters in Tajikistan on May 20 approved changes to the country's constitution that will allow President Emomali Rahmon to rule indefinitely. Voters approved amendments to remove presidential term limits, lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30 and ban religiously based political parties. The first provision allows Rakhmon, 63, to extend his rule, which he has held since 1992. The second provision would allow his son, Rustam Emomali, 29, to be able to run for president in the next election in 2020. The final provision would continue to ban the main opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, which was declared a terrorist organization and banned last year. Election authorites reported that the 41 proposed amendments were approved by 94.5% of voters, with 92% turnout.
Internet partisans are at present avidly posting a story from conspiranoid website AntiMedia back in June noting reports that a former police commander from Tajikistan was featured in an ISIS video, where he "admitted" (boasted would be more like it) that he was trained by military contractor Blackwater under US State Department aegis. While AntiMedia says he was thusly trained "up until last year," the cited CNN report quotes him as saying the training was from 2003 to 2008. It apparently took place both in Tajikistan and at a Blackwater facility in North Carolina. (Blackwater, strictly speaking, has not existed since 2009, having twice reorganized and changed its name since then.) Gulmurod Khalimov, an ex-colonel of the Tajik Interior Ministry's OMON elite units, says in his ISIS promotional video: "Listen, you American pigs: I've been to America three times. I saw how you train soldiers to kill Muslims. You taught your soldiers how to surround and attack, in order to exterminate Islam and Muslims."