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#31 - JRL 2006-70 - JRL Home
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006
From: "Graham Hutchings" <ghutchin@oxford-analytica.com>

Dear Mr Johnson

In Item 18 of Johnson's Russia List of March 18, 2006 #67, Mr Dick Hoagland, US Ambassador to Tajikistan, published highly critical comments about an article on Tajikistan published in a recent issue of the Oxford Analytica Daily Brief. As the Editor of the Oxford Analytica Daily Brief, I hope that you will allow me to respond.

I will confine my remarks to the substantive questions he raised, leaving aside Mr Hoagland's use of intemperate language to describe the article, and the fact that he chose to make public private correspondence between himself and an Oxford Analytica colleague without first seeking permission.

1. UTO: Mr Hoagland says that the UTO "no longer exists". In fact, The United Tajik Opposition , despite having been disbanded, remains an important opposition force that brings together a variety of anti-Rahmonov and anti-Kulyab factions. Our analysis shows that in an attempt to consolidate his personal power, President Imomali Rahmonov may alienate powerful opposition leaders, many of whom fought the government in the 1992-97 civil war and still retain considerable muscle.

The authorities have launched a campaign to discredit the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) -- the only officially recognised part of the UTO. For instance, IRP Deputy Chairman Shamsuddin Shamsuddinov was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Other senior IRP members were arrested. The government refuses formally to recognise the UTO, but this does not detract from the fact that this umbrella organisation continues to shape Tajik politics. Indeed, a series of moves against the IRP can only be seen as Rahmonov’s implicit recognition of brewing problems.

2. Warlords or economic oligarchs? Former warlords, whom Mr Hoagland chooses to dignify as ‘economic oligarchs’, have not lost their connections with criminal structures and drug traders. The income generated through criminal activities allows former warlords to maintain loyal militias and exert pressure on the authorities.

3. Private militias: As regards the militia issue, local police and border forces, a significant number of Defence Ministry infantry units and some Interior Ministry units are still controlled by former UTO and Popular Front commanders. These commanders use their loyalists to exert pressure upon local government and commercial interests, protect drugs smuggling routes and extort payments from Tajik migrant workers returning from Russia.

4. Cross-regional fighters: A wealth of analytical reports and academic literature on Central Asia argue that fighters from Uzbekistan and Afghanistan are finding hospitality in Tajikistan. The weakness of state institutions enables fighters to retain strong connections with criminal networks across Central Asia and to use the same smuggling routes as those used for narcotics trafficking to penetrate Central Asian states from Afghanistan. Reports of growing militancy in the Fergana Valley must be taken very seriously, as instability in the area will have repercussion across all of Central Asia.

To claim that fighters across the region will not cooperate because of tribal distinctions is to overlook the fundamentally ideological nature of the struggle. In 2001, the IMU renamed itself the Islamic Movement of Turkistan. Its proclaimed goals of controlling Central Asia underline the trans-state, even trans-regional, nature of this terrorist network. Russian and Tajik intelligence sources are adamant that hundreds of Uzbek and Taliban militants have penetrated Tajik borders and operate inside Tajikistan alongside the Tajik fighters.

One case in point is Juma Namangani, the founder of the IMU, who fought in Tajikistan throughout the civil war, but moved to Afghanistan and assisted the Taliban in the battle against the Northern Alliance. Namangani also established links with Osama bin Laden and Chechen and Uighur separatists. 5. Poverty: The issue here is largely one of precision and we have made a minor amendment to our original text to achieve this. Our source is the World Bank's report of October 2005 on poverty throughout the transition region. This says (Table 2, page 240) that in 2003, 74% of Tajiks were living on 2.15 dollars or less a day and 96% on 4.30 dollars.

Mr Hoagland prefers the IMF's estimate in its February 2006 report on poverty reduction in Tajikistan, of 64% living on 2.15 dollars, which also dates to 2003. This is buried away in a table on page 24; the IMF report includes no discussion of the issue in its text.

There are two reasons for preferring the World Bank version: 1. The World Bank is based on household surveys, whereas the IMF is based on Fund estimates and data provided by the Tajik government, hardly an unbiased source. 2. The IMF distrusts its own data. In its advisory note of November 2005, which also has the 64% figure, it says (page 2), 'the report fully acknowledges the poor quality, reliability and timeliness of statistics for monitoring progress in poverty reduction'. It points out, for instance, that official indicators fail to account for unregistered births.

6. Our author. The author of the article has conducted extensive fieldwork in Tajikistan. His last trip to the country was in October 2005 when he interviewed a wide range of decision-makers, warlords-turned-'businessmen' and border, intelligence and military officers. As the author did not interview Rahmonov personally, we used the word ‘reported’ to describe his entourage’s perceptions of the president’s attitude to the existing situation.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Hutchings
The Oxford Analytica Daily Brief
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