Despite its forces' relative isolation and extended lines of communication, the United Front has continued to receive military assistance from outside governments. This assistance has come in various forms, ranging from the direct transfer of military materiel to the provision of limited numbers of military advisers and support personnel.
Key to its acquisition of military hardware, in particular, has been the United Front's access to funds. The ousted government is able to generate revenue mainly through its mining operations and the export of precious stones (especially lapis lazuli and emeralds) from the Panjshir Valley and other areas still under its control. But it earns only moderate revenues, in the range of U.S.$7-10 million, from this activity because the technology employed is crude and the stones are exported raw. In Chitral, Pakistan, they are sold to Pakistani gem merchants who finish and sell them in Islamabad and Peshawar.146 The United Front also maintains a monopoly on the production and sale of salt and on the import of gasoline and diesel fuel.147
The United Front has no easy supply lines for foreign assistance. The loss of major cities such as Bamian, Mazar-i Sharif, Herat, and Konduz has deprived the various factions of the United Front based in those cities of serviceable and secure airfields, thus eliminating the possibility of regular airborne resupply flights from friendly governments. All six of Afghanistan's major airfields-defined as those capable of handling long-range, heavy transports such as the Il-76-are currently under Taliban control.148 Of the seven smaller or less serviceable airports in Afghanistan,149 only the field at Faizabad remained under the control of the United Front in June 2001.150
Ground transportation routes between the United Front and friendly foreign "frontline" states have also been largely choked off due to military reversals. During its 1998 drive through Balkh province in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban seized control of the strategic Termez border crossing between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, leaving the United Front with only one land outlet to the outside world-the mountainous border with Tajikistan. Approximately 1,100 kilometers of the Afghan border with Tajikistan are controlled by the United Front, but both geography and politics combine to complicate border crossings in this region.151 Compounding the difficulties the United Front faces in obtaining supplies from abroad is the poor condition of roads and river crossings at those border points still under its control. Although the rugged geography makes it impossible to seal the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, there are very few road networks in northeastern Afghanistan, and those that exist have almost no paved surfaces.152 Although the Amu Darya is shallow and slow enough to be forded by trucks at several points, this method is unsuitable for the necessary large-volume, ongoing resupply operations.153 Currently, only one permanent bridge is in operation across the Amu Darya, at Ishkashim. The other border crossings generally consist of towed or motorized pontoon barges capable of ferrying one fully loaded Russian GAZ-66 truck per trip.154
The Role of Iran
Iran's involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan dates back to the Soviet occupation of 1979-1988, when some two million Afghans fled to Iran and founded at least nine resistance groups in exile. The Iranian government was instrumental in creating and supporting several pro-Iranian Shi'a resistance groups within Afghanistan, including Hizb-i Wahdat, Nasr, and Sepah. During this period, however, Iran's involvement did not extend much beyond providing these groups with political and moral support. It was focused on prosecuting the war with Iraq and kept a relatively neutral stance towards the Soviet Union. Still, Iran remained interested in Afghanistan's political situation, both because of the two countries' long, shared border and because of the large Afghan refugee population in Iran.156
The withdrawal of the last Soviet units from Afghanistan in 1989 coincided with the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, and these two events helped to trigger a shift in Iran's strategic thinking on Afghanistan. Under Khomeini, policy toward Afghanistan had been driven by ideological and sectarian interests. After him, Iran sought an influential role in the power vacuum left by the Soviet withdrawal. Beginning in 1989, Iran began to broaden its contacts in Afghanistan and to build relations with parties other than its traditional Afghan Shi'a proxies. The contacts established during this period would eventually form the groundwork for the system of arms transfers and military support in operation today. Specifically, in late 1991, Iran signed a trilateral treaty on cultural cooperation with the government of Tajikistan, Hizb-i Wahdat, and Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-i Islami, aimed at spreading Iranian influence in Afghanistan; the agreement does not appear to have had any operational consequences.157 Also at this time, Iran established contact with Isma'ili Shi'a and Uzbek groups in Afghanistan-contacts that catalyzed the formation of the United Front coalition. In 1992, these forces-under the command of Tajik commander Massoud, Uzbek Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Isma'ili Shi'a leader Jaffar Naderi, and the Hazara leader of Hizb-i Wahdat, Abdul Ali Mazari-seized Kabul and preempted a U.N.-brokered transfer of power that was to have taken place a few days later.158
Although its diplomatic initiatives played a key role in bringing together the United Front, between 1992 and 1995 Iran actively contributed to the alliance's fragmentation by providing support to various factions separately, not exclusively to the ISA under Massoud. The prime beneficiary of this support was the Hizb-i Wahdat. The Iranian government at this time also provided military support to Dostum's forces, reportedly prompting open complaints of "outside Iranian interference" from other parties, most notably Massoud.159
The current manifestation of Iranian involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan coalesced in 1995, in response to the appearance of the Taliban as a serious military threat both to the government in Kabul and to broader Iranian national security interests. In March 1995 the Taliban defeated the Pakistan-backed Hizb-i Islami. Under attack by the force of Ahmad Shah Massoud, Hizb-i Wahdat leader Mazari struck a desperate deal with the Taliban, but a significant portion of his troops refused to cooperate and attacked the Taliban. Mazari was taken into custody and apparently killed by the Taliban.160 Later that same year, the Taliban captured the strategic city of Herat, near the Iranian border. These two setbacks served to define the Taliban, in Iran's eyes, as a threat to its interests.
From 1995 until the fall of Kabul in 1996, Iranian support was diplomatic and military. Iranian diplomacy proved critical in forging a rapprochement among the divided anti-Taliban forces. And Iranian planes ferried military and civilian goods to Kabul in support of these same forces. (See below.)
Representatives of several different Afghan parties with military units in the field, including Hizb-i Wahdat, Junbish, and Jamiat, confirmed to Human Rights Watch that they had received weapons from Iran.163 In direct response to a question about weapons found on an Iranian train stopped in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, in October 1998 (see below), a United Front delegate to the U.N.-sponsored peace talks between the Taliban and the United Front in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, in February and March 1999 told Human Rights Watch: "We do not deny receiving ammunition and arms from outside Afghanistan."164
In October 1998, a large train shipment of weapons and munitions en route from Mashhad, Iran, to United Front forces in Afghanistan was intercepted in Kyrgyzstan. (See Appendix I.) According to an inventory of the contents of the train drawn up by the Kyrgyz MNB (the successor agency to the KGB in Kyrgyzstan), these weapons from Iran included165: 100mm and 115mm tank ammunition for the T-55 and T-62 tanks, respectively; YM-II antitank mines; D-30 122mm towed howitzers and ammunition; 122mm rockets for the BM-21 and BM-21V "Grad" multiple-rocket launch systems; 120mm mortar bombs; rockets for RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers; F-1 hand grenades; and 7.62mm rifle ammunition. All of these weapon systems are in wide use in Afghanistan, where they have been seen deployed. It is unclear, however, where all of these weapons have been manufactured; although all are of Soviet design, Iran boasts a growing arms industry that currently produces, among other things, 122mm rockets compatible with the BM-21 system, 120mm mortar bombs, and large-caliber tank ammunition.166 In addition to these weapons, the shipment also comprised nonlethal and dual-use goods, including explosives and sundries such as boots, blankets, etc.167
In addition, a number of Iranian-made antipersonnel and antivehicle mines have been found in Afghanistan, used apparently by the United Front. These include NR4 A/P (antipersonnel) blast mine (copy of Israeli No. 4 A/P mine), YM1 A/P blast mine m/m (minimum metal) (copy of Italian TS50 A/P mine), YM11 A/T (antitank, or antivehicle) blast mine m/m (copy of Italian SB81 A/T mine), YM111 A/T blast mine m/m (copy of Chinese T72 A/T mine), and M19 A/T blast mine m/m (copy of U.S. M19 A/T mine).168
Iran's aerial resupply operation at this time was not covert. Journalist Anthony Davis told Human Rights Watch that he had seen Iranian Air Force C-130s at the Mazar-i Sharif airport on numerous occasions in 1997 and 1998.170 Another journalist stated that in the first two weeks following the Taliban's abortive 1997 takeover of and subsequent expulsion from Mazar-i Sharif, Iran provided twenty airplane loads of ammunition and weapons (primarily 122mm artillery shells, 120 mm mortar bombs, and 7.62mm rifle ammunition) to the United Front.171 An Afghan pilot who defected to the Taliban in September 1998 claimed he had been flying Russian and Iranian ammunition to United Front forces in Mazar-i Sharif.172
In 1998, the United Front suffered a series of serious reverses on the battlefield, and the resulting loss of territory crippled the Iranian resupply effort. The loss of Konduz (June 1997), Mazar-i Sharif (August 1998), and Bamian (May 1999) interrupted resupply by air, as the United Front was left with no large airports under its control.173 The territorial losses suffered by United Front forces in 1998 further isolated them from the outside world, sealing off land access to the borders with Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. As of June 2001, the only territory under United Front control giving access to an international border was located in northeastern Afghanistan, where Badakhshan, Takhar, and a portion of Konduz province's borders with Tajikistan were held by forces under Massoud.
Despite the repeated defeats suffered by its allies in Afghanistan, Iran has continued to aid the United Front's war effort. With the loss of viable air supply routes, the Iranian government has been forced to rely on a circuitous land route to deliver supplies of weapons and goods to Afghanistan. Following the loss of Bamian, the lion's share of Iranian support began to flow to the Jamiat forces of Massoud.174 Massoud's forces not only represented the last substantial anti-Taliban military units remaining in the field but also controlled the Tajik-Afghan border east of Imam Sahib. By May 2001, Massoud had lost more territory and was controlling only the border area east of Dasht-i Qala. As described to Human Rights Watch by United Front officials, Iranian military aid was divided among Massoud's Jamiat forces and the forces of Hizb-i Wahdat once it reached Afghanistan. Iranian officials reportedly monitored the shipments and ensured that Hizb-i Wahdat received the equipment intended for it.175
Part of the Iranian government's support of the United Front has focused on widening ground access to outside supplies. Until the fall of Taloqan in September 2000, the bridge at Dasht-i Qala was key to this approach. Work on the bridge appears to have begun in 1999. In June of that year, Human Rights Watch interviewed eyewitnesses who said they had observed and spoken with members of an Iranian engineering and construction crew working at Dasht-i Qala.176 According to these sources, at least one Iranian engineering team was involved in the construction of a new bridge across the Amu Darya river. The Iranian engineering team reportedly attempted to avoid contact with other foreigners in the area and appeared reluctant to concede that they were from Iran. At the time of this encounter, the bridge was still in the early stages of construction, although pylons were already anchored in the riverbed.
Given United front control over the border area, a bridge at this point in the river would allow direct high-volume traffic between the United Front's bases in northern Afghanistan and the A385 highway in Tajikistan. The multi-lane A385 runs directly from Dasht-i Qala to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, with a trunk road running to the joint Russian-Tajik military base and airfield at Kuliob, which numerous reports have identified as a key staging ground for resupply efforts to military formations in Afghanistan loyal to Massoud. (See below.) However, following the Taliban military victories around Taloqan in September-October 2000, the United Front has had no use of the bridge. By May 2001, the United Front was barely holding on to the territory around Dasht-i Qala inside Afghanistan, and no transportation across the bridge, which remained under repair, was possible.177
The Iranian government has also been involved in training anti-Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan.178 When Human Rights Watch visited United Front-controlled areas in June 1999, military training was being provided by small teams of approximately five to eight military instructors who arrived from Iran periodically to lead courses at a training center near the village of Farkhar in Takhar province. Human Rights Watch researchers visited the facility and spoke with a number of students, who confirmed the regular presence of five to eight Iranian military instructors at the camp.179 An estimated eighty to 150 men, roughly the equivalent of junior-level officers, were training at the camp at any given time, receiving instruction in tactics, leadership, logistics, and other military skills.180
Russia and the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union have, to varying degrees, aided the United Front in Afghanistan. The Central Asian states have largely refrained from giving direct material assistance, instead providing indirect, passive, and/or political support to the anti-Taliban coalition. All of the Soviet successor states of Central Asia have repeatedly expressed their political support for the United Front `government' of President Rabbani, although the extent to which they have acted upon this rhetoric varies widely.
Russia has played a crucial enabling role in the resupply of United Front forces by arranging for the transportation of Iranian aid, while providing considerable direct assistance itself, including logistical and support services. Military assistance to United Front forces has crossed the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border with the active collusion of the Russian government, which maintains border forces there and leads the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping forces within the country with its 201st Division.181 Russian Border Guard forces permit large quantities of undisguised munitions and military equipment to cross the Amu Darya river. The joint Tajik-Russian military base and airfield at Kuliob serves as the linchpin for United Front forces in the Panjshir Valley and northern Afghanistan. The base provides logistical support and maintenance services for United Front aircraft and helicopters. Moreover, Western military experts in the region have alleged that in the second half of 2000 Russia provided possibly three or four transport helicopters to the forces of United Front commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.182
Russia has not denied providing direct military support to United Front forces in Afghanistan. The Russian government has an openly anti-Taliban stance, consistent with one of the pillars of post-Soviet strategic thinking in Moscow, namely, the containment of versions of "fundamentalist" Islam it perceives as a threat in and around the borders of the former USSR.183 Following the Taliban's 1996 capture of Kabul, for example, the then-chairman of the Security Council in Russia, Gen. Alexander Lebed, openly urged Russia to intervene in support of the deposed Afghan government and to increase military supplies to Massoud and other anti-Taliban leaders.184 Since then, the Russian government has consistently declared its support for the United Front in Afghanistan.
United Front representatives, for their own part, have not denied receiving supplies, including arms, from Russia. However, they claim that all arms shipments from Russia are paid for by the United Front and thus represent commercial transactions rather than military aid.185
The Russian government has played a leading role in securing regional cooperation (or at least acquiescence) amongst Central Asian states as well as Iran in facilitating supplies of arms and other war materiel to Massoud's forces in Afghanistan. Shipments from Iran, for example, in order to reach United Front forces in northeastern Afghanistan, must either be flown from Mashhad to the Russian military airfield at Kuliob, Tajikistan (see section on Kuliob below), or transported by land via Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and, finally, Tajikistan. Both options require a high level of regional inter-state cooperation and coordination, in order to expedite customs procedures, border crossings, the use of airspace, and transportation hand-offs. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has proven the only state in the region capable of engineering this level of multilateral coordination, often under the aegis of the CIS Collective Security Agreement.186 Russia was also the driving force behind the sharp diplomatic response from CIS countries-including those not directly affected by an internal Islamist threat-to the Taliban's seizure of Kabul in 1996 and advance to the border in 1997. In fact, when the Taliban reached the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border in 1997, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov promptly announced that his government was prepared to take military action to protect the southern borders of CIS states.187
Prior to the Taliban's 1996 capture of Kabul, the major points of entry for Russian assistance to the Rabbani government was the Bagram airbase sixty kilometers (35 miles) north of Kabul.188 Western observers reported a steady flow of Russian and Bulgarian-piloted Antonov and Tupolev jets-some painted in Tajikistani colors-offloading mortars, small-arms ammunition and missiles.189 In addition, a Western journalist based in Central Asia claimed to have seen twelve new Soviet-designed fighter aircraft at Shiberghan airport (approximately one hundred kilometers west of Mazar-i Sharif, in neighboring Jowzjan province) in November 1996. The aircraft had reportedly been provided by Russia and still had plastic coverings on the windows, indicating its recent arrival.190 A defecting Afghan pilot claimed in September 1998 that he had been flying ammunition from Russia and Iran from the joint Russian-Tajik military base at Kuliob in Tajikistan to the Bagram airbase to supply United Front forces in Mazar-i Sharif.191
In addition to providing the political and diplomatic support necessary to establish and maintain international supply lines for United Front forces, the Russian government has also provided a range of more direct assistance to the United Front, utilizing its considerable assets in personnel and materiel in the region. Russian military forces based in Tajikistan, rather than the Tajik government itself, expedite the bulk of foreign military assistance flowing out of Tajikistan to Afghanistan. From a peak of perhaps 30,000 troops in 1993, Russian military strength in Tajikistan, according to official Russian sources, stood at 25,000 troops in 1995, including Border Guards.192 Western sources have put the figure in the 15,000-18,000 range.193 Of these, Border Guard strength has been estimated at about 10,000-12,000.194
Russian Army forces within Tajikistan consist of the 201st Motorized Rifle Division and assorted support units, which are concentrated in the Dushanbe-Kuliob-Kurgan-Teppe triangle in southwest Tajikistan, and command the main lines of communication between Dushanbe and the Afghan frontier.195 Although Russia does not share a common border with Afghanistan, Russian Border Guards are currently stationed on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border in Tajikistan.196 They are deployed in five bases along the border, at Pianj, Moskovskii, Kalaikhum, Khorog, and Murgab, from which they can mount patrols of the border area and exert control over the primary crossing points into Afghanistan (and, in the latter case, China).
According to officers who served in the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), the major border crossings on the Afghan-Tajik frontier are tightly controlled by Russian Border Guards using minefields, checkpoints, and other "technical means."197 In the opinion of these professional military officers, the main mountain passes along the border are similarly blocked, rendering cross-border road traffic dangerous and difficult without the consent of Russian Border Guards.198 Border Guard inspections of cargo vehicles are rigorous in the extreme; drivers are required to unload their vehicles, arrange the contents for inspection, and then reload after the inspection. Only military vehicles and accredited NGOs with good relations with the Border Guard Command in Dushanbe are spared these searches.199
Foreign workers who regularly cross the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border told Human Rights Watch that on numerous occasions they had seen considerable quantities of weapons and ammunition stacked on either side of the border, awaiting either transportation across the Amu Darya River or further transportation to destinations in Takhar and Badakhshan provinces. Specifically, witnesses have claimed firsthand sightings at the barge-ferry crossing at Dasht-i Qala and at the bridge at Ishkashim.200
The witnesses described seeing stores of rocket and artillery rounds awaiting delivery at the border ferry crossing at Dasht-i Qala. The rocket projectiles were most likely 122mm rockets for BM-21 "Grad" truck-mounted multiple-rocket launch systems (MRLS); the artillery shells for M-30/D-30 towed howitzers, respectively.201 Other witnesses said they also observed at different times-but were forbidden to photograph-BM-21 and BM-21V truck-mounted MRLS, as well as wooden crates with hand grenades and large-caliber rockets stacked up on the Tajik side of the crossing, partially covered by tarps.202 On one occasion a witness described seeing a BM-21 being ferried across the river on the barge-ferry at Dasht-i Qala.203
Combining the widespread reports of arms shipments passing into Afghanistan with the known level of control over border crossings exerted by Russian forces leads to the conclusion that military assistance to United Front (specifically, Jamiat) forces has crossed the border with the active collusion of the Russian government. The consistency, volume, and lack of subterfuge or concealment of shipments204 that have crossed the border strongly imply that the Russian role is not the result of isolated, unit-level agreements or arrangements,205 but rather the result of a broader government policy. A high-level Russian government commitment to resupply Massoud is further confirmed by reports that many of the supplies that have crossed into Afghanistan at Dasht-i Qala originated from the Russian military base in Kuliob, Tajikistan.206
Kuliob and Osh
The use of Kuliob as a logistics base for Massoud's forces has also been described in the accounts of two separate defectors to the Taliban. In the spring of 1997, an Afghan government Mi-17 helicopter (number 353) defected to the Taliban. According to one account, the three-man crew later claimed to have made repeated resupply flights between Kuliob and Jamiat forces in Afghanistan. The pilot reportedly said that in one flight he delivered 400 RPG-7 rounds from Kuliob to the Panjshir Valley.209 The pilot is also reported to have claimed that Jamiat An-12 cargo planes based in Kuliob were being used to ferry military supplies from Mashhad, Iran. This charge was bolstered when, a year later, the five crewmembers of an Antonov transport plane landed their aircraft at Kabul Airport and defected to the Taliban. The aircraft's pilot, Commander Muhammad Khan, claimed to have been based in Kuliob and to have flown Russian and Iranian ammunition to United Front forces, in particular to Mazar-i Sharif.210 Since then, military defeats have denied fixed-wing access to most Jamiat forces in Afghanistan. However, in June 1999 Human Rights Watch spoke with journalist Anthony Davis, who has extensive experience in Afghanistan, who confirmed the presence at that time of at least one Antonov still active with Massoud's forces in northern Afghanistan.211
There is also a possibility that Kuliob has been used in the past as a base for United Front fighter jets. In the wake of its September 1997 takeover of the Mazar-i Sharif airport, the Taliban charged that five of the eight jets based at Mazar flew to Kuliob in Tajikistan, where they continued to operate.212 During fighting in northern Afghanistan in the fall of 1999, Taliban forces alleged that they had been attacked by aircraft, but the reports did not make clear whether these were helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.213 Supply flights of Mi-17 helicopters, ferrying ammunition from Kuliob to Takhar province, Panjshir valley, and other areas under United Front control, are reported to be commonplace.214
Another resource employed by the Russian government to expedite shipments of military materiel to anti-Taliban forces is the Russian Army's transportation battalion based in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Much less prominent than the facilities at Kuliob, the Russian transportation battalion in Osh nevertheless came to play an important part in the resupply of United Front forces in 1998-1999. The 1998 Taliban victories in Bamian and Mazar-i Sharif, as noted, effectively cut the air link between United Front forces and Iran. Human Rights Watch has learned that, as a result of this cutoff, renewed emphasis was placed on consolidating a stable land corridor from Iran to northern Afghanistan. This took the form of a resupply route from Iran that allowed cargos to be shipped directly from Mashhad to the rail terminus at Osh, and from there to Afghanistan via trucks. (See the case study in Appendix I for an example of one arms shipment from Iran that took that route.) In this schema, road maintenance and security during the final portion of the trip were provided by the Russian Battalion in Osh. Both the importance and difficulty of this task should not be overlooked. The route from Osh to Ishkashim follows the M41 highway and then the former "Stalin Track" parallel to the Tajik-Afghan frontier. The road from Osh to the Afghan border is subject to extreme weather conditions in winter and runs through Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast.215
The Role of Tajikistan
From 1992 to 1993, Tajikistan was wracked by civil war, during which fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) established military bases and training camps in ethnically Tajik regions of northeastern Afghanistan. Cross-border raids into Tajikistan from Afghanistan were commonplace, and violent clashes between drug smugglers and Russian and Tajik Border Guards remain common. Military incursions northward were followed by large refugee flows southbound into Afghanistan when, in 1993, Tajik government forces emerged victorious in the civil war and engaged in reprisals against elements of the civilian population suspected of sympathizing with the opposition, most notably in Gorno-Badakhshan and among the Garmis in Kurgan-Teppe.216 Tajikistan's dependence on Russia for military and political support derives from the critically important role Russia played in the Tajikistan government's victory in the civil war and in the country's security arrangements thereafter.217 Russia was also pivotal in negotiating the 1997 peace agreement that ended the civil war.
The government of Tajikistan itself does not appear to be providing direct military assistance to United Front forces in Afghanistan. Unpatrolled areas of the Tajik border have been the scene of northbound drug smuggling and southward arms shipments, but these small-scale movements (usually with goods transported by mule or horse) do not appear to be sanctioned by the Tajik government, which is crippled by a moribund economy, infighting among the ruling elite and persistent tension with various domestic opposition movements, and is not currently capable of extending substantive military aid to the United Front.
The United Front forces have contracted with Tajik Airlines, a state-owned concern, to provide servicing of United Front Mi-17 helicopters at the civil airport at Dushanbe. Human Rights Watch researchers saw one such helicopter in a partially disassembled state at the airport in early June 1999.218 Eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that the helicopter flights from Dushanbe to Taloqan, although primarily used for the transport of civilian passengers, carried a variety of military equipment, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms ammunition. Flights from Taloqan to Dushanbe have carried seriously wounded soldiers for treatment in Tajik hospitals.219
On the whole, Tajikistan's role has been more of a facilitator of military assistance from Russia and especially Iran intended for the United Front forces. Yet this is no small matter. By permitting Russian forces to use their facilities in Tajikistan to support United Front military operations Tajikistan opened itself up to charges by the Taliban that it had become a party to the conflict. The Taliban has, on multiple occasions, charged the government of Tajikistan with interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs and threatened unspecified retaliation.220
The Role of Uzbekistan
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and after the emergence of the Taliban and its successes on the battlefield, the government of Uzbekistan took a hostile attitude toward the Taliban. Uzbek President Islam Karimov frequently branded the Taliban's advance a threat to his country's national security. Indeed, the government's campaign against its own internal critics and against proponents of any form of Islam other than that espoused by the official Muslim Board of Uzbekistan is pervasive and integral to the government's conceptualization of its own internal security.221
However, despite the rhetoric, Uzbekistan's support for the Taliban's opponents has not been consistent or uniform. Until the fall of Mazar-i Sharif to Taliban forces in August 1998, Uzbekistan supplied its main Afghan ally, the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (NIMA), or Junbish, forces under Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, with arms, ammunition, and fuel.222 The garrison town of Termez, home to a large Uzbek military air and land presence, was the main base for this assistance, serving both as a supply point for arms transfers as well as a maintenance depot. From Termez supplies, including small arms, artillery, ammunition, and fuel, were transported across the Friendship Bridge to Mazar-i Sharif and elsewhere.223 During this period, the Uzbek government reportedly also provided General Dostum with spare parts and supplies for tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other mechanized vehicles. Moreover, Junbish combat aircraft-both fixed-wing jet aircraft and helicopters-used to receive maintenance and servicing at Termez airport.224 And on at least one occasion, in September 1998, Uzbekistan allowed a large shipment of Iranian military goods for United Front forces to cross its territory. (See Appendix I.)
With the destruction of the Junbish forces in 1998, Uzbekistan's leaders apparently decided upon a strategic shift, giving up active support of any faction in Afghanistan-although they continued to cooperate in the shipment of Iranian military goods across Uzbekistani territory-in favor of fortifying the border and a more energetic pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the conflict. President Karimov hosted the July 1999 Six Plus Two contact group conference in Tashkent.225 Uneasy about the prospects for increased Russian influence in the area, Uzbek officials in the late 1990s started increasing their diplomatic contacts with the Taliban. They remain concerned, however, about possible Taliban support for the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and see Massoud as an important check on the IMU's influence.226
The Role of Turkmenistan
At the same time, a portion of the Turkmen railroad system has been used on at least one occasion to transport large volumes of weapons and munitions from Iran to Massoud's forces in Afghanistan. Train wagons filled with weapons left the Iranian military base in Mashhad on September 23, 1998, and arrived in Sarakhs shortly thereafter, whereupon rail gauge-shifting equipment was used to convert the trains to Soviet-caliber gauge. Since May 1996, a spur line has linked Sarakhs with the former Soviet/Turkmenistan railway system at Tejen, Turkmenistan. It was along this line that Iranian weapons were transported, crossing the Turkmen border in the process and continuing along the Tejen-Merv-Charjou route before leaving Turkmen territory and crossing into Uzbekistan. It should be noted that train cargo crossing into or out of Turkmenistan is subject to customs verification and search and that the chances of weapons shipment(s) crossing in from Iran and transiting Turkmenistan without some sort of official sanction are extremely small. 231 (See the case study in Appendix I.)
The Role of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has become more concerned with sources of instability emanating from Afghanistan since late August 1999, when armed militants crossed into southern Kyrgyzstan and took several hostages, including four Japanese geologists, a general of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Internal Affairs, and several Kyrgyz soldiers. Kyrgyz forces responded militarily with assistance from Uzbekistan and Russia; almost 5,000 people were displaced during the fighting.232 The hostages were rescued. In August 2000, Uzbek rebels of the IMU engaged in armed clashes with Kyrgyz government forces, taking hostages. The government responded with bombing raids on border areas in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.233 In February 2000 the Kyrgyz government requested permission to join the U.N.-sponsored Six Plus Two contact group in order to play a part in future efforts to negotiate an end to the Afghan conflict.234
146 The United Front is aware that it loses considerable revenue by being unable to export the stones in even a semi-finished condition, and in 1999 entered into a contract with a Polish firm to begin processing stones mined in the Panjshir Valley. Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Shah Massoud, Taloqan, June 12, 1999. See also G. Bowersox and B. Chamberlin, Gemstones of Afghanistan (Tucson, AZ: Geoscience Press, Inc., 1995).
147 Gasoline and diesel fuel are brought into United Front areas by means of a ten-inch pipeline from Tajikistan, which crosses the Amu Darya river at Dasht-i Qala. The line has broken at least once as a result of an accidental collision with the barge-ferry that operates at Dasht-i Qala. Diesel is also brought in by heavy tanker truck from Tajikistan via the bridge at Ishkashim. Human Rights Watch interviews, Dushanbe, June 6, 1999, and Taloqan, June 9, 1999.
148 The six airports and their runway lengths are: Bagram Airbase (3,000 meters), Herat (2,600 meters), Kabul International (3,500 meters), Qandahar (3,200 meters), Shindand Airbase (2,700 meters) and Mazar-i Sharif (3,100 meters).
149 These are defined as those capable of handling short-range, light- to-medium transport aircraft such as the An-26, An-32, and C-130. The other five airfields are Bamian (1,500 meters), Jalalabad (1,800 meters), Konduz (2,000 meters), Maimana (2,000 meters), and Shiberghan (2,600 meters). U.N. Secretariat, "A Review of the Options on Embargo of Military Supplies to the Warring Factions in Afghanistan," undated "Non-Paper" (1998 or 1999), http://www.afghan-politics.org/reference/Sanctions/embargo_military_supplies_to_factions.htm.
150 The airstrip at Taloqan is 2,000 meters; that at Faizabad is 1,800 meters. The Taloqan airstrip, located outside the town at Khwajaghar, is short and rough and can only be used by light aircraft such as the Antonov 12. Following the fall of Taloqan to the Taliban in September 2000, Taliban forces advanced northward toward Khwajaghar but were stopped short of the airfield. It has since been within the range of Taliban artillery, shielded only by a range of hills held by troops loyal to Massoud. According to United Front sources, the Faizabad airport is under the control of autonomous local leaders whose support for the United Front is contingent on regular cash payments. Human Rights Watch interviews, Takhar Province, Afghanistan, June 1999. Tensions exist between local commanders and Massoud's forces over the latter's monopoly of arms shipments and the United Front's taxing of the drug trade. Human Rights Watch e-mail communication with Barnett R. Rubin, May 2000.
151 The Afghan-Tajik border is marked by the Amu Darya river, with no operating bridges and mountainous terrain on either side except for the westernmost part (Sher Khan Bandar), which is often under pressure from the Taliban. It is poorly served by roads, plagued by cross-border drug smuggling, subject to severe weather conditions, and controlled by Russian and Tajik Border Guards.
152 Human Rights Watch interviews with observers familiar with the area, May 1999. The primary crossings capable of handling medium-to-large-volume shipments are: Sher Khan Bandar, Dasht-i Qala, Kalaikhum/Nusay, Ishkashim, and Khorog.
153 Human Rights Watch interview with Viacheslav Konstantinovich Shukhovtsev, vice president of Afkazinterneft, Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 22, 1999.
154 The GAZ-66, called the "Kalafil" by Afghans, weighs slightly more than 2,000kg and can carry up to seven metric tons of stores. It is widely used in Afghanistan and Tajikistan for civil and military purposes. Human Rights Watch interviews with a western import/export official, Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 1999; and with witnesses in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 1999, and Peshawar, Pakistan, July 1999.
155 Human Rights Watch interviews with Commander Daoud, Taloqan, June 8, 1999; and with Professor Daoud, Panjshir Valley, June 17, 1999.
156 Some two million refugees took refuge in Iran. In 2000, after Iran announced its intention to repatriate the refugees, the UNHCR formalized a Joint Program with the government. The UNHCR reports that by mid-October 2000, more than 116,000 Afghans had repatriated under this program. UNHCR, "Funding and Donor Relations: 2001 Global Appeal - Strategies and Programmes," undated, http://www.unhcr.ch/fdrs/ga2001/irn.pdf. The program terminated in December 2000. Information provided to Human Rights Watch from UNHCR offices in Islamabad, May 2001.
157 Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan..., p. 252; and Human Rights Watch e-mail communication with the author, May 15, 2001.
158 Ahady, p. 122. The Hazara community in Afghanistan consists of two branches of Shi'a Islam. Most are Imami Shi'a, who recognize the leadership of a succession of twelve Imams beginning with the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Ali. A minority are Isma'ili Shi'a, who look for leadership to the lineal descendants of the sixth Shi'a Imam, represented today by the Agha Khan. Human Rights Watch, "Massacres of Hazaras in Afghanistan," p. 2. See also Mousavi, The Hazaras of Afghanistan..., p. 76.
159 Ahady, p. 125. See also Rubin, The Search for Peace..., pp. 130 and 172, note 10, and e-mail communication with Barnett R. Rubin, June 8, 2001. To channel aid to the Hizb-i Wahdat, Iran built a big airstrip at Yakaolang, the site of back-and-forth fighting and a massacre in the first half of 2001. See Human Rights Watch, "Massacres of Hazaras in Afghanistan."
160 Davis, "How the Taliban...," pp. 57-58.
161 Massoud has said that during military operations in the fall of 1998 his tanks were going into battle with as few as four main-gun rounds per tank. Human Rights Watch interview with Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, Takhar province, Afghanistan, June 12, 1999.
162 With the loss of Iranian and Uzbek border crossings, traveling from Mashhad, Iran, to United Front territory in northeastern Afghanistan requires crossing first into Turkmenistan, then across Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and finally into Afghanistan.
163 Human Rights Watch interviews with Nimatullah, First Secretary, Consul of the Embassy of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 25, 1999; and with representatives of Jamiat and Hizb-i Wahdat who were present in Nimatullah's office.
164 Human Rights Watch interview with Amrullah Saleh, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, May 29, 1999. For a discussion of the abortive peace talks in Ashgabat, see U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission of Human Rights, "Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any Part of the World: Report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan submitted by Mr. Kamal Hossain, Special Rapporteur, in accordance with Commission resolution 1999/9," E/CN.4/2000/33, January 10, 2000, p. 7.
165 Human Rights Watch was shown this inventory in Osh in June 1999, and was allowed to copy its contents. The inventory only gave a listing of the types of contents, not their exact numbers and weights.
166 The International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1999-2000 (London: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 132-33; Christopher F. Foss, Editor, Jane's Armour and Artillery 1999-2000 (Coulsdon, Surrey, U.K.: Jane's Information Group Limited, 1999), pp. 44-46 and 780-81; and Terry J. Gander, Editor, Jane's Infantry Weapons 1998-1999 (Coulsdon, Surrey, U.K.: Jane's Information Group Limited, 1998), p. 599.
167 See Appendix I. A significant portion of these explosives is likely to have been used for military purposes, such as the demolition of bridges and tunnels. However, it is also possible that some of the explosives were put to civil use. Lapis lazuli and emerald mines have been a significant source of revenue for the United Front; Human Rights Watch has been told that mining is carried out by using military explosives to blast gem-bearing rock to rubble and sifting for stones. See Bowersox and Chamberlin, Gemstones of Afghanistan, especially p. 135, which refers to the use of military explosives in emerald mines. More information on the mining and sale of precious minerals in Afghanistan can be found at www.gems-afghan.com/news.htm.
168 Human Rights Watch interview with a military expert with experience in Afghanistan, February 2001.
169 Statement by journalist Anthony Davis in an e-mail communication with Human Rights Watch, March 9, 1999. Davis told Human Rights Watch that he was able to ride on one such plane, which carried a large number of crates of light-machine-gun ammunition. Human Rights Watch also interviewed other persons-not for attribution-who had seen Iranian aircraft and/or Iranian personnel, as well as a Tashkent-based journalist, Tashkent, June 24-25, 1999.
170 Human Rights Watch e-mail communication with Anthony Davis, March 9, 1999.
171 Human Rights Watch interview with a Tashkent-based journalist, Tashkent, June 24-25, 1999. A 1997 U.N. report quotes "reliable eyewitnesses" as having reported "many sorties of military deliveries in unmarked aircraft to bases of the Northern Alliance" that year. U.N. Secretary-General, "The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security," Report of the Secretary-General, S/1997/894, November 14, 1997, para. 18. The "Northern Alliance" is another name for the United Front.
172 The pilot, Commander Muhammad Khan, spoke at a news conference with four members of his crew in Kabul. Sayed Salahuddin, "Afghan defectors Say They Were Flying Iranian Arms," Reuters, September 30, 1998.
173 There is a small airfield in Faizabad, but the United Front exerts only weak control there in the face of strong, autonomous local leaders. In April 1999 Hizb-i Wahdat forces were able to recapture Bamian from the Taliban, although the city was retaken by Taliban forces within three weeks. During Wahdat's brief period of control, travelers in the area noted that a rough dirt airstrip at Yakaolang several kilometers west of Bamian had been lengthened and improved, with runway lights installed to permit landings at night. One witness interviewed by Human Rights Watch said aircraft were landing at the strip in late April 1999 at the rate of four a day. The aircraft in question were described to Human Rights Watch as Antonov-32s previously used by General Dostum's forces prior to the fall of Mazar-i Sharif. Human Rights Watch interview, Islamabad, July 1999. After the fall of Mazar-i Sharif, the United Front claimed two of the planes were being kept at the Iranian Air Force base at Mashhad and three others at the Russian military base at Kuliob, in southern Tajikistan. "Pilot Defects to Taleban: Says Iran, Russia Arming Opposition," Voice of Shari'ah Radio, October 2, 1998; and "Taleban accuses Iran," BBC News Online, October 2, 1998, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_185000/185206.stm. In late January 2001, Hizb-i Wahdat forces retook Yakaolang from the Taliban, and in April the airstrip was back in use. Later in April, however, the Taliban retook Yakaolang from the United Front; the Hizb-i Wahdat again forced the Taliban out on June 5, but the Taliban returned June 10-11, burning down houses and public and commercial buildings. Human Rights Watch, "Afghanistan: Inquiry Needed into New Abuses: Arrests, Burnings of Homes Reported in Yakaolang District," press release, June 14, 2001.
174 In February 1998, Massoud, on his first trip abroad (not including Tajikistan) since 1991, reportedly visited Tehran secretly in order to meet with senior Iranian military and civilian leaders. See Ahmed Rashid, "Masud in Tehran as massive arms supplies reach all Afghan factions," The Nation (Lahore), March 13, 1998. In March 2000 a Western observer visiting Taloqan heard a fixed-wing aircraft landing at the Taloqan airstrip. The witness says he was told by a United Front official that Iranian aircraft had begun using the airstrip to carry injured Afghan fighters to Iran for medical treatment. Human Rights Watch telephone interview, May 16, 2000.
175 This has caused considerable resentment among Massoud's officials, who argue that this course is not only militarily inefficient but intrudes upon Afghan sovereignty. They maintain that as the internationally recognized government, the United Front/ISA has the right to decide where and when to apportion military resources for national defense. These complaints have apparently made little impression on Iran, and United Front officials acknowledge that they have few alternatives to accepting Iran's conditions. Human Rights Watch interview with United Front official, Jabul Siraj, Afghanistan, June 15, 1999.
176 Human Rights Watch interviews with witnesses who had recently returned from Dasht-i Qala, Dushanbe, June 19, 1999.
177 Information obtained from local sources, April and May 2001.
178 Prior to the fall of Mazar-i Sharif and Bamian, expatriates had reported the presence of Iranian military personnel in both cities. Any Iranian presence in these two regions, however, ended in 1998, when the Taliban captured both provinces.
179 Human Rights Watch interviews at the Iranian training facility, Takhar province, June 10, 1999. A United Front commander who defected to the Taliban in February 2001 also claimed that Iran had sent military experts to aid the United Front. Amir Shah, "Russia giving opposition helicopters, Iran giving military advice," Associated Press, February 24, 2001.
180 During multiple visits to the training camp, Human Rights Watch representatives witnessed no operational heavy weapons systems, save for one ZSU-23 truck-mounted antiaircraft gun. Other areas in the camp held barracks, classrooms, and an obstacle course.
181 The Commonwealth of Independent States is a loose confederation of twelve post-Soviet states, formed in 1992.
182 Human Rights Watch interviews with diplomatic sources in Islamabad, October 2000. The same claim was made by a senior United Front commander, Karim Abed, who defected to the Taliban in February 2001. The defector claimed that Russia had given four helicopters to Massoud, and had helped build an airport for him at his new base in Khoja Bahauddin in northern Takhar province following his defeat in Taloqan in September 2000. Amir Shah, "Russia giving opposition helicopters, Iran giving military advice," Associated Press, February 24, 2001.
183 In May 2001 signatories to the 1992 Collective Security Agreement of the Commonwealth of Independent States agreed to create a 3,000-man Rapid Reaction Force intended to combat Islamist guerrillas infiltrating Uzbekistan from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. (See below.) As is underscored by Russia's close relationship with Iran, concerns about Islamic "fundamentalism" do not impede trade or cooperation on other strategic interests.
184 Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Moscow), September 29, 1996.
185 Human Rights Watch interview with Amrullah Saleh, Dushanbe, May 29, 1999. In statements to journalists, Massoud has claimed that Russian military supplies he has obtained were purchased from the Russian Mafia. James Risen, "Russians are Back in Afghanistan," New York Times, July 27, 1998.
186 The Collective Security Agreement of the Commonwealth of Independent States, signed on May 15, 1992, loosely binds nine of the Soviet successor states (Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan) to cooperate with one another on military issues. The treaty was renewed in May 1999 by six of the original signatories; Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan declined to stay on. The treaty failed to create a post-Soviet version of NATO or the European Union-two institutions its creators compared it to. Its successes have been chiefly in the field of unified air defense and peacekeeping operations within the former Soviet Union. The capture of Taloqan by the Taliban in September 2000 reinvigorated the security provisions of the treaty: On May 26-27, 2001 signatory states formally agreed to set up a 3,000-man Rapid Reaction Force for Central Asia, intended to combat Islamist guerrillas infiltrating Uzbekistan from Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The force was expected to be based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and to operate in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. See "Rapid Deployment Units of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Be Stationed in Bishkek," Pravda (Moscow), May 25, 2001; Yuri Golotyuk, "Helmet Color Is Significant," Vremya Novostei (Moscow), April 28, 2001; and Oleg Odnokolenko, "Collectivization of Combat Brotherhood Fails," Segodnya (Moscow), November 14, 1998.
187 "Russia, Central Asian republics seek to contain Afghan conflict," Agence France-Presse, February 25, 1997.
188 In October 1995 an Ilyushin-76 carrying a cargo of military supplies was intercepted by Taliban aircraft and forced to land at Qandahar; the Russian crew was interned by the Taliban for a year. Robert Fisk, "Circling Over a Broken, Ruined State," Independent (London), July 14, 1996. The operation may have been the work of private Russian actors, as the plane was carrying Kalashnikov ammunition from Albania and was registered to a private company in Tatarstan. Human Rights Watch e-mail communication with Barnett R. Rubin, May 2000.
189 Fisk, "Circling Over a Broken, Ruined State."
190 Human Rights Watch interview with a journalist, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, June 24, 1999. The aircraft were most likely SU-22 fighter/ground attack planes; a number of these remain in service with the Taliban, flying out of Mazar-i Sharif, Kabul, and Shiberghan.
191 Salahuddin, "Afghan defectors Say They Were Flying Iranian Arms."
192 This is the figure given by the Russian Peacekeeping Directorate, cited in Michael Orr, "The Russian Army and the War in Tajikistan," in Mohammad-Reza Djalili, Frederic Grare, and Shirin Akiner, eds., Tajikistan: The Trials of Independence (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997), p. 159.
193 Ibid., and Catherine Poujol, "Some Reflections on Russian Involvement in the Tajik Conflict, 1992-93," in Djalili et al., pp. 100-01. The figure of 18,000 Russian troops includes Army, Air Force, and Border Guards. For more recent (anecdotal) information, see Ahmed Rashid, "A Long, Hot Summer Ahead," Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong), April 19, 2001.
194 Orr, "The Russian Army...," p. 156.
195 The 201st MRD, also known as the Gatchinskaya Division, consists of: the 92nd Motor Rifle Regiment, 401st Tank Regiment, Divisional HQ, support and air units, all based in Dushanbe; the 149th Motor Rifle Regiment, based in Kuliob; and the 191st Motor Rifle Regiment in Kurgan-Teppe. Orr, "The Russian Army and the War in Tajikistan." According to one report in Izvestia, the 201st is routinely rated as one of the ten most combat-ready formations in the Russian Army. Soldiers receive special allowances that increase their pay to 50 percent above the norm in a Russia-based unit. In addition to its internal security duties within Tajikistan, the 201st is tasked with providing fire support and reinforcements when necessary to the Border Guards during skirmishes. See Gennadi Charodeyev, "The 201st MRD in Tajikistan," Izvestia, March 19, 1998. See also Sergei Babichev, "They Guard Peace," Orientir (a magazine published by the Russian Ministry of Defense), no. 12, 2000; and Yuri Golotyuk, "Only a River Stands Between Russia and a War," Vremya Novostei (Moscow), October 2, 2000.
196 Russian Border Guards had also been stationed in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the past, but have now been withdrawn. A Western diplomatic source in the region told Human Rights Watch in an e-mail communication in April 2001 that Russian Border Guards appeared to have left Kyrgyzstan (none were present at the Osh airport or on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border at that time), but that at least one hundred Russian Army officers and other ranks had arrived in Kyrgyzstan in anticipation of the expected spring offensive by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), apparently as advisers to the Kyrgyz military. See also Rashid, "A Long, Hot Summer Ahead."
197 Human Rights Watch interview with Lt. Col. Viktor Zenkin (Ukrainian Army) and General Hvidegaard (Danish Army), commanding officer, United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), Dushanbe, Tajikistan, May 29, 1999. The UNMOT mission ended in June 2000 and was replaced by the United Nations Tajikistan Office of Peace Building (UNTOP).
198 Those crossing the Afghan-Tajik border without permission risk violent responses from Border Guards, who regularly employ artillery, air support, and light arms against drug smugglers. See "Border guards in Tajikistan seize heroin, kill one," Reuters, July 31, 1999. Firefights between Border Guards and drug smugglers are frequent.
199 Border Guard search procedures were described to Human Rights Watch by an international relief worker based in Peshawar, Pakistan. Representatives of several NGOs involved in the shipment of bulk supplies to Afghanistan from Tajikistan also emphasized the rigor of Border Guard inspections. NGO personnel who wish to cross the border must first obtain permission from the Russian Border Guard Command in Dushanbe, then from the regional Russian Border Guard Command, the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Russian FSB (successor to the KGB). Approval can take two weeks or more and is generally given only to recognized NGO personnel involved with relief activities. Human Rights Watch interview with an international relief worker, Peshawar, July 1999.
200 Human Rights Watch interviews with expatriate workers, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, May-June 1999.
203 The witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch in May-June 1999 noted that there were often significant variations in the amount of munitions moving across the river. The accounts were of a somewhat general nature in terms of specific dates and amounts but agreed that the shipments were a constant presence going back at least to 1997.
204 Although there is insufficient information to estimate the quantity of arms crossing from Tajikistan into Afghanistan, the frequency of independent sightings of military supplies at the border indicates a fairly regular flow. As for concealment, trained Russian military personnel could not mistake a Russian-built, forty-barrel, truck-mounted BM-21 artillery system for anything else. This implies official knowledge of the nature of the shipments.
205 According to Tajik and foreign journalists and diplomatic sources, such "financial arrangements" between Russian Border Guards and private smugglers are not uncommon. Human Rights Watch interviews with expatriate workers, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, May-June 1999.
206 Human Rights Watch interview with a Tajik source who claims to have seen military supplies being carried in trucks southward from Kuliob and then later seeing some of the same vehicles at the Dasht-i Qala crossing, Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 1999. An unnamed defector from the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, has claimed that advisers from Russia's foreign and military intelligence services worked with Massoud and Dostum, and that at least some of the arms shipments sent to northern Afghanistan were arranged by Russian military intelligence. Quoted in Risen, "Russians Back in Afghanistan," New York Times, July 27, 1998.
207 Uzbek officials have made similar charges. Human Rights Watch e-mail communication with Barnett R. Rubin, May 2000.
208 Human Rights Watch interviews with foreign diplomats, Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Dushanbe, Tajikistan, May-June 1999.
209 Jake Border, "Taliban Turnaround," part 2, p. 62.
210 Salahuddin, "Afghan Defectors Say They Were Flying Iranian Arms."
211 Human Rights Watch interviews with Anthony Davis, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, June 1999.
212 Border, "Taliban Turnaround," part 2.
213 In 1999 Human Rights Watch did see and inspect two Mi-35 attack helicopters (the Mi-35 is an export version of the Soviet-designed Mi-24 Hind gunship) parked in the Panjshir Valley, however. These helicopters were inherited from former Afghan government stocks and were in serviceable condition.
214 Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous journalists and government officials in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and several Western countries who attested to the importance of the Kuliob facility for the United Front forces. Such flights continued in June 2001. The helicopters are not capable of carrying weapons cargo, but do provide needed stocks of ammunition. Information provided by a security expert in the region, June 2001.
215 According to UNMOT officers who spoke with Human Rights Watch, the road is impassable during the winter months. However, numerous Tajik truck drivers and civilians claimed in interviews with Human Rights Watch that trucks, in fact, drive the route year-round. Human Rights Watch interviews in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, May 28-June 8, 1999. A U.N. World Food Program official indicated that their own assessments of the road had found it to be open year-round. Human Rights Watch interview with a WFP official, Peshawar, July 1999.
216 According to UNHCR, all refugees from Tajikistan were repatriated following the June 1997 peace agreement. See http://www.unhcr.ch/world/asia/tajikist.htm. For more on reprisals by government forces, see Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch) and the Inter-Republic Memorial Society, "Tajikistan: In the Wake of Civil War," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, December 1993.
217 For example, in 1993 Emomali Rakhmonov, now president of Tajikistan, expressed his gratitude to Russia for its assistance upon the signing of a friendship treaty, saying that were it not for "Russia and Boris Yeltsin personally, and Uzbekistan and Islam Karimov personally, then Tajikistan would have already ceased to exist." Vera Kuznetsova, "Yeltsin and Rakhmonov Confirm Their Mutual Positions," Nezavisimaia Gazeta (Moscow), May 26, 1993.
218 The helicopter was identified to Human Rights Watch as a United Front helicopter by a United Front official on June 8, 1999. Moreover, the ousted Afghan government's symbol of an upward-pointing two-tone green delta arrowhead on the rear of the fuselage was clearly discernible. The servicing arrangement was described to Human Rights Watch by a United Front official in Dushanbe in the first week of June 1999. The Mi-17 itself is a large utility helicopter used for carrying personnel and freight; it can also be equipped with a variety of weapon systems. The supply of maintenance services constitutes military support when the main function of the helicopter fleet being serviced is military tactical transport, as is the case with the United Front helicopters.
219 Human Rights Watch's own observations during flights from Dushanbe to Taloqan and from Taloqan back to Dushanbe, June 1999, and interview with a Western intelligence officer who made the same flight in October 1998. Human Rights Watch telephone interview, May 9, 1999.
220 For example, see "Taliban Accuse Tajikistan of Providing Arms to Northern Alliance," RFE/RL Newsline (Prague), vol. 3, no. 194 (October 5, 1999).
221 President Karimov, himself a former communist strongman, has led this campaign against domestic opponents under the guise of combating "Islamic extremists" and "Wahabis." Human rights violations attending the campaign have been documented and condemned by international human rights organizations. See, for example, Human Rights Watch, "Memorandum: U.S. Policy in Central Asia," May 2001, http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/uzbekistan0605-bck.htm; International Crisis Group, Central Asia: Islamist Mobilisation and Regional Security, an ICG Asia Report, no. 14, March 2001; Human Rights Watch/Europe and Central Asia, "Crackdown in the Farghona Valley: Arbitrary Arrests and Religious Discrimination," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 10, no. 4(D), May 1998; and Human Rights Watch/Europe and Central Asia, "Uzbekistan: Persistent Human Rights Violations and Prospects for Improvement," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 8, no. 5(D), May 1996.
222 The Junbish military forces under General Dostum were ethnically Uzbek. Uzbeks in Afghanistan constitute approximately 6 percent of the overall population, but predominate in many northwestern provinces bordering Uzbekistan, especially in areas of Balkh, Samangan, Sar-i Pol, Jowzjan, and Faryab provinces. In an illustration of General Dostum's importance to Tashkent's political elite, President Karimov, in reference to Dostum, stated on Uzbekistan state-run TV: "...He defends a very important sector which in essence defends the north of Afghanistan from the arrival of the Taliban. If we really want to prevent a further escalation of the war...then we must do everything possible so that Mr. Dostum can hold on to the Salang." Uzbekistan Television, quoted in Inside Central Asia, no. 141 (September 30-October 6, 1996). "The Salang" refers to the strategic Salang Pass connecting the north of Afghanistan to the fertile Shamali plain and the national capital, Kabul.
223 The bridge is high capacity (up to an estimated 11,000 metric tons per day) compared with other available means of crossing the Amu Darya river, and connects with a two-lane paved road that runs directly to Mazar-i Sharif. See U.N. Secretariat, "A Review of the Options on Embargo of Military Supplies to the Warring Factions in Afghanistan," undated "Non-Paper" (1998 or 1999),
224 Human Rights Watch interviews with foreign and Uzbek journalists, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, June 23-24, 1999; and with Western diplomats, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, May-June 1999.
225 According to Uzbek government as well as foreign diplomatic sources in Tashkent, officials in Uzbekistan were greatly disappointed with Dostum after the Junbish forces' defeat in late 1998. As one official of the Uzbek security ministry, the SMG (successor to the KGB), told Human Rights Watch: "He [Dostum] is no longer seen as a military contender." Human Rights Watch interviews with foreign journalists and Uzbek security ministry official, Tashkent, June 22-25, 1999. According to Uzbek and foreign journalist sources, Junbish forces remained active in Uzbek parts of Faryab and Sar-i Pol provinces. However, Jamiat officials in Taloqan claimed that Junbish retained only two or three active field commanders/commands. Human Rights Watch interviews with foreign journalists, Tashkent, June 24, 1999.
226 In June 1999, Massoud met with representatives of the Uzbek SMG in Termez. Human Rights Watch interview with a United Front official, Dushanbe, June 3, 1999.
227 Turkmenistan has become an important trading partner for western Afghanistan; on an average day in 1999, one foreign observer reported over a hundred heavy KAMAZ trucks carrying commercial goods passing through each of the two major crossings on the Turkmen-Afghan border. Human Rights Watch interview with a diplomatic source, Islamabad, July 1999.
228 Human Rights Watch interview with a Western diplomat, Washington, D.C., April 26, 1999. A media story in May 2001 reported: "The Taliban is not officially recognized by most of the Central Asian states, but Turkmenistan has relatively close relations with it. This relationship is mainly in the economic arena, and in particular includes gasoline sales to Afghanistan. During the last three years selling gasoline has become a major private business. The oil refinery in the city of Seidi serves as a starting point. Huge trucks, specially designed to carry five to 30 or more tons of gasoline the Taliban is desperate to have, transport gasoline at a constant pace. The deal is good for both sides: it is a sales market for Turkmenistan, and it is an important and easily available product for Afghanistan. The gasoline is usually taken to the border and then pumped into Afghan trucks. Anyone with the necessary documents can drive into the neighboring country for a few kilometers, and this increases the profit greatly. This kind of relationship with its neighbor does not receive any coverage in Turkmenistan's media." "Turkmenistan Sells Gasoline To Taliban," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Prague), May 15, 2001.
229 Human Rights Watch interview with General Nimat, formerly a high-ranking official under General Dostum, Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 25, 1999.
230 Human Rights Watch interview with Viacheslav Konstantinovich Shukhovtsov, Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 22-23, 1999.
231 The information in this section is based on interviews and documents gathered in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan, May-July 1999.
232 See B. Pannier, "Kyrgyzstan: Former Security Chief Criticizes Strategy Against Militants," RFE/RL Research Report, September 20, 1999; and Human Rights Watch, World Report 2000: Events of 1999 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999), p. 277.
233 Human Rights Watch, World Report 2001: Events of 2000 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2000), p. 306.
234 "Kyrgyz Head Applies to UN to Admit Kyrgyzia [sic] into 6+2 Group on Afghan Crisis," Asia-Plus News Agency, Dushanbe, February 2, 2000.