What’s new? The Tajik government’s control of its eastern territory, Gorno-Badakhshan, is tenuous at best. Irregulars loyal to local powerbrokers known as the Authorities have clashed with government forces in the past and may do so again if challenged. China has a growing security presence in the region.
Why does it matter? Gorno-Badakhshan sits at the nexus of security problems including Uighur unrest in China’s Xinjiang region; Afghanistan’s war and opium trafficking; and jihadists’ potential return from Iraq and Syria to China, Central Asia or Russia. A rocky transition when President Emomali Rahmon steps down could provoke further instability in the region.
What can be done? Rahmon’s government resists outside advice, but Moscow and Beijing, which have some influence and fear upheaval in Tajikistan, could perhaps nudge the president toward a transition that minimises risks of violence. China also should communicate more clearly its concerns and interests in the region, to both Russia and local inhabitants.