On December 20, 2011, members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) reached an agreement that makes it impossible for any individual country in the group to host a foreign military base on its territory without the full consent of all other members of the organization. The initiative empowers Russia to veto any foreign basing plans in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Hence, the move serves as a continuation of Russia’s efforts to counteract the influence of the US military and reassert its own role in its immediate neighborhood (Interfax, December 21).
The decision effectively puts an end to Tajikistan’s aspirations to explore closer security relations with non-CSTO nations. Following Tajikistan’s independence in 1991, Russia assumed the role of the country’s security guarantor. Russian border guards policed Tajikistan’s southern frontier until 2005. A Russian army division that had stayed in Tajikistan after the Soviet break-up was reorganized into a permanent military base in 2004. The base now has around 7,000 troops stationed in Dushanbe, Kulob, and Qurghonteppa (www.news.tj, October 21, 2011). Moscow has also been the largest provider of technical military assistance to Dushanbe.
Tajikistan participates in all Russian-led integration and regional security schemes, including the CSTO. The country contributes an infantry battalion to the group’s Collective Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF). In April 2010, Tajikistan hosted the CRRF’s military exercises Boundary 2010 that aimed at preventing possible incursions of “terrorists from Afghanistan” (www.news.tj, April 26, 2010). In September 2011, the CSTO conducted exercises in Tajikistan as part of Tsentr 2011, which also trained the group’s militaries in preventing possible popular uprisings (EDM, September 30, 2011).
One year ago, authorities in Tajikistan announced the death of the militant Alovuddin Davlatov, aka Ali Bedaki. Despite evidence suggesting that Bedaki was captured alive in January 2011, interrogated and then executed extrajudicially, local media and human rights groups as well as the international community have mostly been silent and reluctant to address this case.
Bedaki was a mid-level opposition field commander during the 1992-1997 Tajik civil war. He later joined the police force, presumably as part of the 1997 peace accord where some former United Tajik Opposition (UTO) fighters were incorporated into Tajikistan’s security forces. He soon left the police and supposedly became a farmer. Following the September 19, 2010, attack on a government military convoy in the Rasht valley in eastern Tajikistan where 28 conscripts were killed, security agencies placed the blame on Bedaki and another former UTO commander, Abdullo Rahimov, aka ‘Mullo Abdullo’, killed in April 2011. Immediately after the attack, Bedaki’s brother, Husniddin Davlatov, was detained and alleged in a televised ‘confession’ that the convoy assault was led by his brother. Consequently, Bedaki became a key target of a security operation in the Rasht valley. His brother and father were convicted and sent to prison.
On January 4, 2011, the authorities announced that Bedaki had been killed in a shootout with government troops in the village of Runob, one kilometer south of the Rasht district center. The official narrative claimed that he and a number of his men were spotted by police and were subsequently killed in a four-hour gun battle. In February, however, the official narrative was challenged by a YouTube video. The footage showed an exhausted and humiliated bearded man, stripped to his underpants but with no apparent wounds, which relatives and former UTO fighters recognized as Bedaki. He was being questioned in the back seat of a parked car by what appeared to be members of the Tajik security agencies. Soon after, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) said they saw the footage but refused to comment, while the police denounced the video as “an ordinary fake.” A modified account of Bedaki’s death was offered in April when Amirqul Azimov, then head of Tajikistan’s National Security Council, announced that Bedaki had been captured alive, but died due to gunshot wounds on the way to hospital.