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Vakhon, Tajikistan

China will build a base for police in Tajikistan near the Afghan border, a Tajik official said 29 October 2021, amid concerns from both countries about the Taliban's ability to keep a lid on extremist groups. Tajik officials say only Tajik troops will be stationed at the Chinese-funded base. The base points to deepening security cooperation between impoverished Tajikistan and China, which is reported to maintain another base in the southeast of the ex-Soviet country. The Tajik government offered to transfer full control of a preexisting Chinese military base in the country to Beijing and waive any future rent in exchange for military aid from China, according to a communique sent from the Chinese Embassy in Dushanbe to Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry and seen by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service.

The development paints a picture of a growing Chinese military footprint in the Central Asian country as Beijing and its neighbors in the region turn their attention toward an increasingly tenuous security situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban's mid-August takeover. "This decision to build such a facility is one of only a few known examples for China around the world," Raffaello Pantucci, a senior associate fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute, told RFE/RL. "The fact that we keep seeing this activity in Tajikistan shows the level of Chinese concern towards Afghanistan and the region."

Construction of the new facility was approved in Tajikistan's lower house of parliament on October 27 as lawmakers voted on the agreement reached between Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry and China’s Public Security Ministry. Tajik First Deputy Interior Minister Abdurahmon Alamshozoda said the facility would be located in the village of Vakhon in the country’s remote Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province and that the base would be owned by the country’s Rapid Reaction Group -- special forces that operate under the purview of the Interior Ministry. Lawmakers said regular Tajik troops would also be present at the facility.

Tajik lawmaker Tolibkhon Azimzoda said in parliament that the new base would be built with Chinese funding and that the total cost would be about $10 million, which he tied to a worsening security situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government. Azimzoda told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that Chinese personnel would not be stationed at the new facility. “The construction comes amid the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and growing security threats along the country's border,” Azimzoda said.

The exact function of the new base is unknown, although lawmakers said it would carry out policing duties focused on combating organized crime and that the facility would have “special equipment for the Interpol information system” installed from China. Beijing is navigating a delicate security situation in the region since the Taliban takeover. China has a pragmatic working relationship with the group, but it remains to be seen how closely the Taliban will cooperate on counterterrorism issues with Chinese authorities.

China has sounded the alarm about Uyghur extremists potentially using Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks on Chinese targets in the region or in its western Xinjiang Province. While the full scope of the threat posed by Uyghur militants is disputed, with many analysts saying the fighters lack coordination and numbers to launch attacks, the prospect of terrorist threats spreading from Afghanistan are a central concern for Chinese policymakers.

The Interior Ministry of Tajikistan rejected the news regarding the establishment of a Chinese military base on the soil of the country, saying that the establishment of the base is not on the country’s agenda. The Interior Ministry of Tajikistan announced on Saturday, (October 30) that the establishment of China’s military base on the soil of the country near the border of Afghanistan is invalid, according to the Khawar news agency. “The information about the establishment of a Chinese military base in Tajikistan is incorrect, and the issue is not on the bilateral agenda,” the Tajik Interior Ministry said in a statement.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2021 12:54:02 ZULU