Tajikistan patted itself soundly on the back after rubbing out arch-Islamist insurgent Abdullo Rakhimov in April, but its security officials are not about to sit on their laurels.
According to the authorities, Rakhimov, aka Mullo Abdullo, was behind the killing of dozens of soldiers in the remote eastern Rasht Valley and was plotting to wage a campaign of terror across the country. After a successful military operation, however, Rakhimov and numerous accomplices were eliminated, putting a stop to all that.
Interior Minister Abdurakhim Kakhorov is now warning that the country's other oft-mentioned bogeyman, Mahmoud Khudoiberdiyev, could at some point make a resurgence and invade Tajikistan.
Khudoiberdiyev's story is altogether more complicated than Rakhimov's. (And piecing it together is not made any simpler by the seemingly endless ways that his names can be transliterated into English.)
Here is a useful biographical passage from Jesse Driscoll's article "Commitment Problems or Bidding Wars - Rebel Fragmentation as Peace-Building," which goes with a French-style spelling for Khudoiberdiyev:
Mahmud Khoudobourdiev’s uneven political fortunes provide a lens through which to view the kaleidoscopic complexity of Tajikistan’s warlord politics in the 1990s. Khoudobourdiev served in the Soviet military until it’s collapse, contracted his services to the elected post-war [sic] government (1991), joined the Popular Front and played a key role in installing Rakhmonov as president (1992), withdrew from Dushanbe politics and installed himself as a feudal lord in Kurgan-Tubbe (1993-4), led an Uzbek-backed revolt against the state (1995-6), became a First Deputy in the Presidential guard (1996), and finally led a doomed revolt in 1997.
(Incidentally, do check out that paper from page 34 onward for some wicked nutty mathematical abstractions on the logic of Tajik warlords, as if such a thing exists.)
The story that people in Dushanbe like to tell is that during one of Khudoiberdiyev's sieges of the capital, Rakhmon phoned him and cried on the phone as he pleaded for the attack to stop. The Russian 201st Motorized Infantry Division then reputedly came to the rescue, but Rakhmon has supposedly never been able to live down the humiliation. It's an amusing image, and who knows how much truth there is to it.
Well, several media outlets have had Khudoiberdiyev pegged as a dead man since October 2001, either shot by his own deputy or killed in a car accident, depending on whom you believe. The Tajik government does not want to hear about that and has persisted in sticking up blurry wanted flyers of him around the country.
Kakhorov says that 12 Khudoiberdiyev supporters were detained in Tajikistan in the first six months of the year and that three terror attacks planned by his group were thwarted. “You ought not to forget that if somebody has betrayed his homeland once, he will betray it again,” the defense minister warns.
The apparent subtext here is that Khudoiberdiyev is a stooge of the hated Uzbek government, which Tajikistan says has been giving him shelter over the last decade.
So, will naysayers (the undersigned included, for the sake of transparency) of Tajikistan's security policies be proved wrong again when they insist that Khudoiberdiyev poses relatively little danger inasmuch as he is not alive, as they thought with Rakhimov? Or is this just a wild goose chase aimed at fomenting an unsettled mood in the country and justifying the government's militarized approach to supposedly ensuring public security while propping up a largely unaccountable government?
Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between -- that there are hardened remnants of the Khudoiberdiyev camp, who did indisputably once pose a notable threat to the Rakhmon regime and possibly continue to do so, bent on sowing mayhem.