MacDILL AFB, Fla. (June 29, 2010) – Construction of a National Training Center will highlight this year’s joint efforts between United States Central Command and the armed forces of the Republic of Tajikistan and continues a military partnership that has been going strong since 1998.
USCENTCOM and the Tajikistan military have conducted an increasing number of security cooperation exchanges, ranging from military education and training, global peacekeeping initiatives, counternarcotics assistance, and civil-military cooperation programs. “Tajikistan is a critical United States partner in Central Asia,” said Lieutenant Colonel Scott Maxwell, Chief of the Central Asia Branch of the USCENTCOM Security Cooperation office in Tampa, Florida. “Our cooperation programs are important to building Tajikistan’s security capabilities and maintaining regional stability.”
Once the National Training Center is complete, Tajik forces will use it to build their counterterrorism and counternarcotics capabilities. American and Tajik troops will also establish an English language laboratory at the training center to increase domestic language capacity. Language instructors from the U.S. Defense Language Institute began hosting the first of two 16-week courses on English proficiency in April.
USCENTCOM is also sponsoring construction of border outposts and interagency communications programs to increase Tajikistan’s capacity to fight the illegal narcotics trade. These programs began in 2007 and will continue into 2010. A number of Special Operations training events specific to countering narcotics trafficking took place in 2009 and will continue into 2010 and beyond as well.
“Our commitment to helping Tajikistan counter terrorism and illegal narcotics trafficking are high priorities for CENTCOM,” Maxwell said. “Our counternarcotics facilities construction, and training and equipping of Tajikistani counternarcotics and counterterrorism forces are critical programs for doing so.”
Tajikistan’s U.S. military state partner, the Virginia National Guard, will expand its role this year from military-to-military training and information exchanges to civilian-military medical readiness and disaster response capabilities. Medical personnel from the Virginia Guard will oversee several projects, including an intestinal parasite eradication program, the U.S. Department of Defense’s HIV and AIDS prevention program, and seminars focused on developing Tajikistan’s peacekeeping unit.
A capstone event in 2009 included the development, with the aid of the United States Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation, of the Tajikistan Peacekeeping Policy white paper, which defines the goal of training and equipping a Peacekeeping Operations Battalion for the eventual deployment of an infantry company in support of a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in 2011. This program makes available $3.5 million toward the development of a United Nations certified peacekeeping capability in Tajikistan.
2009 also saw significant progress in a number of CENTCOM-sponsored counternarcotics programs, most notably the completion of the $35 million Nizhny Pyanj Bridge, Point of Entry and Customs facilities on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. The bridge has already seen increased commercial traffic bolstering relations with Tajikistan’s southern neighbor. Further Point of Entry infrastructure enhancements will be completed in 2010.
Since 2007, the United States has been working and the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to enhance Tajikistan’s humanitarian demining capacity. Tajikistan has requested United States and OSCE assistance in clearing over 600 known minefields with over 240,000 mines along the country’s borders. United States Foreign Military Financing assistance will enable Tajikistan to purchase a $1.6 million “Mini-Minewolf” mechanical demining machine in 2010.
Security cooperation between the United States and Tajikistan is not limited to the military sector. The U.S. Army Civil-Military Operations Initiative expands outreach into local communities, using a whole-government approach to promote a healthy, educated Tajikistan. 2011 will see the renovations of two schools, the result of a partnership between USAID and the Tajik Ministry of Education. Also, a Landmine Victim’s Summer Camp will host both veterans and civilians who have suffered landmine-related injuries in Tajikistan.Partnership between USCENTCOM and Tajikistan’s armed forces improves bilateral relationships and promotes stability and security in Central Asia. USCENTCOM currently manages about $20 million in funding for some 50 to 60 security cooperation events each year. The number of events is expected to grow to more than 70 in 2011.