Although rarely in the news, the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan is a critical corridor for hashish and opiates bound from southern neighbor Afghanistan to Europe and world markets.
Violence associated with the cross-border trade is predictably endemic and appears to be escalating. Border guards have repeatedly clashed with traffickers on the frontier in recent weeks, leaving several dead.
An account on EurasiaNet noted some recent bloody incidents.
Border guards reported killing two traffickers in an exchange of fire after they attempted to cross over from Afghanistan at the border town of Hamadoni on July 3. Authorities retrieved five kilograms of an “unspecified narcotic substance” from the bodies.
Another clash was reported that week at the Panj crossing to the west, north of the Afghan city of Kunduz, which has been repeatedly besieged by Taliban militants in recent months. After the gun-battle at Panj, border guards found 16 kilograms of hashish and a Kalashnikov rifle.
Another grim account comes from Radio Free Europe.
Two 19-year-old college students from the southern village of Yol were sentenced last month by a court in Tajikistan to 14 years in prison each on charges of drug-trafficking and illegal border crossing.
Officials say the two admitted to crossing the border illegally in January to buy hashish and opium from Afghan traffickers. According to Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security, the men crossed the border along with a fellow villager, a high-school student also aged 19. When the two returned with 17 kilos of opium and 15 kilos of hashish, their unfortunate comrade was left with the Afghan dealers as a guarantee of future payment. The two were popped at the border, and the kid they left behind was released in an operation carried out by Tajik security forces in February.
The account is not clear on whether the Tajik forces had to cross into Afghan territory for the raid, or if they had the cooperation of Afghanistan’s authorities.
Tajikistan shares more than 1,400 kilometers of mountainous frontier with Afghanistan, which produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, according to the United Nations.
Tajikistan’s Drug Control Agency estimates that at least 20 percent of drugs coming from Afghanistan are trafficked to Europe through the so-called “northern route,” via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.