An article by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier says relations between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan reached an all-time low at the end of April when the armed forces of the two countries battled over border issues.

Tajikistan Misses Big Opportunity to Mend Ties with Kyrgyzstan notes that attempts at reconciliation along their common border produced mixed results, and a visit to Tajikistan by Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov in late June did little to warm relations between the Central Asian neighbors despite talk by Japarov and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, about traditionally friendly ties.

According to the article, an unexpected opportunity to improve the strained relations came on July 13-14 when 345 ethnic Kyrgyz from Afghan Pamirs chose to flee the increased fighting in their country and crossed into Tajikistan.

Kyrgyz authorities quickly announced they would take the group and the approximately 4,000 livestock they had and resettle them in Kyrgyzstan. 

The Afghan Kyrgyz did not want to live in Afghanistan anymore and Tajik officials did not want them to stay in Tajikistan, the article says.

Kyrgyzstan said it would accept them and give them land for their livestock and allow them to make a new home in their ancestral country.

The author notes that Kyrgyz officials had previously discussed the Afghan Kyrgyz with Tajik officials on the sidelines of international conferences and meetings held in Tashkent and Dushanbe from July 14-16.

On July 16, Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry invited the Tajik ambassador for talks on arranging passage for the Afghan Kyrgyz and their herds of animals through Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan.

But on July 18, Tajikistan’s Khovar state news agency reported that the Afghan Kyrgyz had been sent back to Afghanistan after Kabul officials guaranteed their safety.

The article notes that that guarantee is unlikely to satisfy anyone since fighting is raging across Afghanistan and the government cannot realistically guarantee anyone’s safety. 

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry reportedly says its offers to help Tajikistan to move the Afghan Kyrgyz to Kyrgyzstan for resettlement went unanswered and Tajik authorities did not inform Kyrgyzstan about the decision to return the group and their animals to Afghanistan.

The Tajik government reportedly has, arguably, the worst relationship with the Taliban of all the Central Asian states and does not want to do anything that could further undercut the Afghan government’s campaign against the Taliban.

The author notes that the resettling of Afghan citizens in other countries is a sign of instability and even defeat for Kabul, and it is quite possible Afghan officials asked Tajikistan to send the group of Kyrgyz back to Afghanistan to show that the government and army can still provide security.

But for people in Kyrgyzstan, the decision to send their ethnic kin back into the Afghan inferno is just another reason for them to believe the Tajik government is no friend of the Kyrgyz people, the article notes.