On 10-20 August 2022, the “Regional Cooperation-2022” exercise was held in Tajikistan under the command of the United States of America (US). The armies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Pakistan also took part in the exercise.
In the statement regarding the exercise on August 9, 2022, the US Embassy in Dushanbe used the following statements:
“The exercises aim to strengthen regional security and stability, increase their ability to curb the spread of terrorism and drug trafficking, and help exchange information for the development of regional defense forces in international peacekeeping operations.”
In addition, it was also stated that the US and Tajikistan Armies will conduct bilateral field exercises at Fahrabad Training Center. When introducing the exercise, the US Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim stated that the exercises are repeated as a routine within the “Regional Cooperation” with the aim of ensuring stability, fighting terrorism, and improving cooperation between Central and South Asian states and the US.
As it will be remembered, in June 2022, US Central Commander (CENTCOM) Michael Kurilla visited Dushanbe. Kurilla met with Imamali Rahman, President of Tajikistan, and Sharali Mirzo, Minister of Defense of Tajikistan. During these meetings, the development of relations between Tajikistan and the US, and the strengthening of cooperation, especially in the field of military-security, were discussed.
After the meetings, Kurilla said that the Washington administration provided aid worth $330 million to Tajikistan to strengthen the country’s security. In the article published on the website of the US Embassy in Tajikistan, it is stated that the US has invested more than 1.8 billion dollars in the country for more than 30 years and these were spent on economic development, food security, health services, clean water, education, security, access to electricity in the country, and strengthening the ties between the people of the two countries. As a matter of fact, Tajikistan is the most supported state by the US among the Central Asian countries.
In addition, in June 2022, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West visited Tajikistan and met the President of Tajikistan and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan Sirojiddin Muhriddin. On the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, which made a statement on the issue, it was stated that Muhriddin and West exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan, international terrorism, extremism, and other issues between the two countries.
As can be seen, the US is trying to regain its decreasing influence in the region after its withdrawal from Afghanistan. At this point, it is necessary to remind the following words of Donald Lu, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, during his visit to Central Asia in May 2022:
“I can say that the main goal of my visit to four Central Asian countries, namely Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, is to strengthen the relations of the UA with the region and to increase joint efforts to make Central Asia safer and more prosperous.”
Central Asia is included in CENTCOM and sees the developments in this region in the field of security as its own responsibility in the military sense. Tajikistan, on the other hand, is in a very different position compared to the other countries in the region. Because, after the Taliban’s reign over Afghanistan in August 2021, there has been a serious change in Tajikistan’s foreign policy and threat perceptions.
Tajikistan is a state that acts as bounded to the principle of “multilateralism” in foreign policy. The country resembles Africa’s Djibouti in a way. Because Tajikistan has been an ally with Russia since 1992, both within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and bilateral agreements. In addition, between 7 and 8 thousand Russian soldiers have been serving in Tajikistan for many years.
After the military intervention of the US and its allies in Afghanistan in 2001, the Dushanbe administration developed a security-based cooperation with Afghanistan. Tajikistan also has special relations with Germany and France. In addition to all these, the country has also worked closely with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Afghanistan-Tajikistan border security.
At the same time, Tajikistan has close relations with China within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Even though it is not officially accepted by the Dushanbe administration, it is claimed that China will build a military base in the country.
On the other hand, it has been claimed that since the end of the 2000s, Tajikistan held appointments with India about the issue of military base. But these talks did not yield any results. Therefore, India was content with building and using a military hospital in the south of Tajikistan.
Tajikistan has also signed agreements with Iran in the field of defense in recent years and has established a factory in its country for the joint production of Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In addition, Iran has announced that they will support the security of Tajikistan.
On the other hand, Tajikistan has also close relations with Turkey in the field of defense. Relations between the two countries are developing day by day. This situation reveals the multi-faceted foreign policy of Tajikistan.
It is possible to see Tajikistan’s multi-faceted diplomacy approach, which takes care of the balance between power centers, in its relations with the US. Although Rahman, unlike other Central Asian countries, did not make an official visit to the US during his thirty-year rule, the relations on the Dushanbe-Washington line have always had a positive manner.
Currently, Tajikistan continues having problems with the Taliban and the activities of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan contribute to deepen the relations between Tajikistan and the US. Regarding the Taliban, Tajikistan, rather than Russia; It has similar views to the US. Because Russia continues its dialogue with the Taliban and thinks that this organization should be recognized. In fact, Russia was the first country to declare that it was considering recognizing the Taliban administration. The US and other Western countries advise the Taliban to take steps on human rights and demand the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
As can be understood, the policy of the US coincides with the expectations and goals of Tajikistan. Moreover, Dushanbe wants to fight both the terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and the Taliban administration, and considers that the United States is the most effective force in this regard. As a matter of fact, the murder of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, as a result of the US drone attack in Afghanistan confirmed this.
Moreover, the sanctions imposed on Russia due to the war in Ukraine negatively affect the economy of Tajikistan. For this reason, it can be argued that the US offered an economic support package to Tajikistan, just as it did to other countries in the region. However, this does not mean that Tajikistan will end its economic relations with Russia. In fact, the news that Russia was negotiating to deactivate the sanctions over Tajikistan was also reflected in the media.
As a result, concerns about the Taliban are at the center of Tajikistan’s perception of threat. Although the Taliban declared that they recognized the borders of their northern neighbors, the Taliban administration deployed soldiers on the Tajikistan border because Tajikistan supported the Panshir Movement. This shows that the Taliban are trying to put pressure on Dushanbe. Tajikistan, which maintains its relations with Russia in terms of security, also thinks that establishing relations with the US in this regard will serve its interests. The participation of both Pakistan and other Central Asian countries in the exercise made it easier for Dushanbe to take such a decision.
 “Regional Cooperation 2022 Military Exercise Begins in Dushanbe”, U. S. Embassy in Tajikstan, https://tj.usembassy.gov/regional-cooperation-22/, (Date of Accession: 12.08.2022).
 Aynı yer.
 “В Таджикистане стартовали учения, организованные Центральным командованием США”, Asia Plus, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/security/20220811/v-tadzhikistane-startovali-ucheniya-organizovannie-tsentralnim-komandovaniem-ssha, (Date of Accession: 12.08.2022).
 “Президент Таджикистана и глава CENTCOM США обсудили расширение сотрудничества в военной сфере”, İnterfax, http://interfax.az/view/869620, (Date of Accession: 12.08.2022).
 “Дипломатические отношения США и Таджикистана”, tj.usembassy.gov, https://tj.usembassy.gov/ru/our-relationship-ru/policy-history-ru/embassy-fact-sheets-ru/, (Date of Accession: 12.08.2022).
 Aynı yer.
“Таджикистан и США рассмотрели расширение сотрудничества в военной сфере”, Asia Plus, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/0/20220616/tadzhikistan-i-ssha-rassmatrivayut-rasshirenie-sotrudnichestva-v-voennoi-sfere, (Date of Accession: 12.08.2022).
“Эмомали Рахмон провёл встречу с командующим Центральным командованием ВС США”, Ozodi, https://rus.ozodi.org/a/31899844.html, (Date of Accession: 12.08.2022).