Tajik president fears instability after NATO Afghan pullout

Tajikistan is deeply concerned about instability after foreign troops withdraw from neighbouring Afghanistan, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon told Reuters on Thursday.

Afghanistan is to hold presidential elections in April 2014 as most foreign combat troops will be preparing to withdraw from the country by the end of that year, leaving Afghan security forces in charge.

"It is a matter of deepest concern that the coincidence of the two major events ... might make the situation difficult," Rahmon told Reuters on the sidelines of an investment conference in Brussels, referring to the election and troop pullout.

Rakhmon, who held talks with European Union and NATO officials in Brussels this week, urged Europe and the rest of the world to "take seriously" the situation after 2014 and to help Afghanistan build up its army and police.

The Afghan government and NATO have been at pains to counter fears that Afghanistan could slide into chaos or that there could be a Taliban resurgence once tens of thousands of foreign troops leave.

Tajikistan has a 1,200-km (750-mile) border with Afghanistan and faces a problem with opium-trafficking from its neighbour.

Tajikistan has signed a transit agreement with NATO, allowing the Western alliance to use its airport to transport equipment to and from Afghanistan.

Provided instability is contained, Rahmon said there was no reason why the Tajik economy should not continue growing at an annual 7 percent pace, even though the International Monetary Fund has said economic slowdown in dominant regional power Russia could have a knock-on effect.

"Absolutely we can. Just for the (first) three months of 2013 the indicator of economic growth is 7.3 percent," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Central Asian News Services