1. Within 48 hours Tajikistan secured a decisive 1st round "military" victory against Kyrgyzstan. And the Kyrgyz likely do not want to start a 2nd round. An inept new Kyrgyz leadership, flush with nationalism, picked a fight with an opponent that deceptively appeared to be weak.
2. In late March, Kyrgyzstan's top security official said that Tajikistan should swap its fertile Tajik enclave for some rather sad dry Kyrgyz grassland foothills. The Tajiks immediately rejected this idea. A few days later Kyrgyz commenced military exercises in the area.
3. The Tajik president responded by visiting the enclave to reassure the people, who 100% want to remain part of Tajikistan. Tajikistan, as can be seen now, made many preparations, militarily AND "hybrid" "little green men" style. Local Tajik civilians were also prepped.
4. As this border area has seen semi-regular small-scale fights between Tajik and Kyrgyz villagers, and between Tajik and Kyrgyz border guards, it didn't take long for something to snap. It came in the form of a dispute over the installation of a security camera.
5. The Tajik side fully mobilized immediately: the border guards, the military, men in civilian clothing carry out tasks with military precision, and....Tajik civilians in the enclave and in regions nearby enthusiastically acting in unison with the state.
6. The Kyrgyz side was overwhelmed, both the military and the civilians. The ratio? Hard to say as the Tajik side is so secretive, but maybe a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio in favor of the Tajik side (including military and civilian casualties).
7. Add to this the property damage inflicted, which very much makes it looks like the Tajik side rolled easily through some Kyrgyz areas. But still, how does this equal a victory for the leadership of Tajikistan, and not just another outbreak of violence that leads nowhere?
8. Because just over a month ago a top Kyrgyz government official was talking about Tajikistan like it was some roast sheep from which Kyrgyzstan should take a slice - just one slice. This was quickly followed by large Kyrgyz military exercises next to the proposed cut of meat.
9. And within 5 weeks the government of Tajikistan has shown that it can: (a) defend its territory while inflicting serious pain on both the Kyrgyz military and civilian population, (b) having a very high level of support and coordination from Tajik civilians while doing so.
10. President Rahmon of Tajikistan, if he was even awake for this, has a victory with great domestic significance. On the other side, the Kyrgyz president and his top security officer have a humiliation and a defeat.
11. The Kyrgyz leadership, now and whenever they change leaders again, will now see any attempt to covet thy neighbor's land as leading to a swift and angry counter-strike. All cost; no benefit.
12. In any such border dispute, Kyrgyzstan is fighting for its supper, and Tajikistan is fighting for its life. That didn't help Armenia, but Kyrgyzstan is no Azerbaijan.
13. The Tajik enclave of Vorukh does not have a population that is blind. They see what happens to "inconvenient" minorities (e.g., Uzbeks) in Kyrgyzstan. They will fight to the death to stay part of Tajikistan. Who on the Kyrgyz side wants that sort of fight?
14. Of course, the mobilization and arming of the civilian sides does lead to this possible outcome: locals civilians might start to make their own tactical and strategic decisions, and undermine the states' ability to control the situation.
15. But for now, it seems like it is not close to reaching this point. On the Tajik side, the state rules supreme. On the Kyrgyz side: bewilderment and anger.
16. The two most powerful Kyrgyz men talked big (being nationalists/populists) and they completely failed to deliver. Chinese still mine their gold, and the Tajiks just thrashed them in full view of everybody. And the civilians suffered the most.
17. On the Tajik side, something significant: El Presidente is semi-retired. He congnac-naps a lot. But the state carried out complex and difficult plans with precision and decisiveness. What does this demonstrate?
18. This demonstrates that he could retire tomorrow and put some semi-competent young man in his place, and the state could continue to operate without their previous manager. Just like a normal country or business or organization that transitions leadership.
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