Tajikistan Important to War on Terror, Rumsfeld Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, Jul. 10, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met here today with the Tajikistani president and defense officials in an effort to foster an ongoing military-to-military relationship between Tajikistan and the United States.
Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmonov (left) welcomes U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, July 10 before the two met to discuss defense issues. Photo by Staff Sgt. Gary Hilliard, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Tajikistan is an important Central-Asian country. ... They've been very cooperative in the global war on terror and helpful since almost the beginning," Rumsfeld told reporters on the plane headed here.
This is Rumsfeld's third visit to Tajikistan. He last visited this country, which borders Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, in July 2005. He and Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmonov discussed the two countries' ongoing relationship, as well as regional issues such as the situation in Afghanistan and counternarcotics efforts, Rumsfeld said at a news conference following the meeting.
The situation in Afghanistan was a central topic of the discussion. Afghanistan's stability is important to the entire Central-Asian region, so the support of countries in that region to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan is vital, Rumsfeld said.
"Our goal for our country is to have as many countries cooperating in the global war on terror and providing as many types of cooperation as they feel comfortable providing," he said.
Since the war on terror began, Tajikistan has allowed the United States to use its airspace and also has provided refueling services for U.S. aircraft, Rumsfeld said.
Talbak Nazarov, foreign affairs minister of Tajikistan, said at the news conference that his country is committed to helping the United States establish peace and security in Afghanistan. U.S. and coalition forces have already neutralized the major Taliban forces in Afghanistan and made possible elections of a president and parliament, Nazarov said. Taliban forces are still active in Afghanistan, with the goal of destabilizing the new democracy, but their efforts are futile, he said.
The leaders also discussed the counternarcotics effort. The United States is working very actively with Tajikistan to stop the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan, a senior Defense Department official told reporters. Tajikistan is on a major opium route out of Afghanistan, so the United States is helping Tajikistan with counternarcotics and border security programs, he said.
Tajikistan has been working to strengthen its border, and the United States is boosting those efforts by providing training and equipment, Rumsfeld said. Tajikistan's leaders recognize the importance of the narcotics problem and have a desire to work on fixing it, he said.
Last year, Tajikistan border security forces and law enforcement officials seized 4,613 kilograms of drugs, Nazarov said. In the first three months of this year, the amount of drugs seized increased by 27 percent, he added.
Counternarcotics efforts are important in Central Asia, because the funds from selling narcotics could potentially fund the Taliban or other terrorist activities, Rumsfeld said. A large demand for narcotics from Western Europe and Russia fuels the drug trade in Central Asia. Rumsfeld said each country's solution will have to be a government plan that includes eradication of processing capabilities, crop substitution, and a robust criminal justice system.
Tajikistan is of particular interest to the United States because of its strategic location in Central Asia, the DoD official said. Over the last five or six years, there have been several incidents of terrorists moving back and forth from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other neighboring countries, he said.
The relationship between Tajikistan and the United States is multifaceted, encompassing political, economic and security issues, Rumsfeld said. The United States has been involved in infrastructure projects within Tajikistan in addition to the work the countries have done together in the war on terror, he said. Since 2001, the relationship between the two countries has developed significantly and will continue to do so, he said.
"We look forward to strengthening our relationship in the weeks and months and years ahead," he said.