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Chinese Trucks Help Protect Tajikistan

November 18, 2021
Chinese-made pickup trucks used by police commandos. Via Tajikistan state media.

Still holding back on formal recognition of the Taliban and worried about its vulnerable border the Central Asian state ruled by Pres. Emomali Rahmon is constantly advertising its military strength. Whether these are well-orchestrated mobilizations or live fire exercises with the Russian military the whole point is the government shows it has everything under control. This was driven home once more when Rahmon attended a small parade on November 10 marking an anniversary of the police forces. Footage from the event was helpful in identifying the other types of Chinese equipment delivered to Tajikistan’s domestic security apparatus.

It’s been established that Tajikistan receives military aid from China while it hosts thousands of Russian troops outside Dushanbe, the capital. (China’s PLA are suspected of maintaining an outpost near the Tajik-Afghan border.) But the volume and quality of this Chinese largess was difficult to measure until the national media began focusing coverage on the armed forces’ readiness in the summer of 2021. Since then the true size of the Tajikistan military became apparent. While troop strength numbers in the low thousands it’s trained for maintaining domestic peace and this is made possible with a lot of Chinese infantry weapons and logistics. The rest of the military’s equipment is of Soviet origin leftover from the 1980s and only small acquisitions and deliveries from Russia are documented so far. The police forces are no different and, as the photo above from November 10 shows, they have multiple pickup trucks of the “Maxus” brand. This is a line of trucks manufactured by China’s SAIC and the particular model, with the brand name laid in front of the grille, looks like the Maxus T70 from the late 2010s.

Other pickup trucks used by Tajikistan’s police forces are the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser. There are US-made 4×4’s in service too like the Jeep Wrangler. But Chinese vehicles are ascendant and serve to augment the aging motor pool of Soviet vintage trucks that are kept in working order. Aside form the Maxus T70 a selection of wheeled armored transports supplied by China have upgraded the Tajikistan military’s logistical reach and offensive power. There are at least dozens of Dongfeng EQ2050’s in the army and the variant mounting an 82mm automatic mortar adds to a substantial mobile artillery cache. For the reader’s benefit the Dongfeng EQ2050 is the Chinese analog to the AM General HMMWV or Humvee–some of the latter were gifted by the US as bilateral aid. Tajikistan is now the third Central Asian country to receive Dongfeng EQ2050s after Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Another Dongfeng vehicle that enjoys widespread use is the 2182 model. This 6×6 medium truck has supplanted the Russian-made Ural in the Tajikistan military and functions as a transporter for troops and supplies. Dongfeng 2182’s were spotted in multiple locations during exercises as the logistical backbone for armor and artillery units. At least three models of 4×4 APCs are in service. There’s the Norinco VP11 MRAP and the CS/VN3. Both are fully enclosed and have seating for at least seven occupants aside from the driver. The CS/VN3 was also delivered to Belarus for the army and police. The third model is the Baoji Tiger, an APC model whose delivery to foreign end users is often connected with Chinese financial aid, and the irony is Afghan commandos used to have the same Tigers gifted by China and it’s a foregone conclusion the Taliban have scooped up these vehicles.

Considering Tajikistan’s exposure to debt and foreign investment from China, as well as its participation in One Belt One Road (OBOR), acquiring more advanced and lethal weapon systems from its superpower neighbor seems practical. If Dushanbe has the budget for it China’s state-owned companies are allowed to sell attack helicopters, rocket artillery, tanks, and low-cost fighter jets together with any surveillance technology the end user requires. Yet the volume and quality of Chinese military assistance to Tajikistan fits the same pattern as other poor countries who receive rather than purchase this hardware. It’s surprising how Tajikistan’s government hasn’t acquired Chinese-made drones for surveilling its border with Afghanistan. Then again it does have some drones in use–small quadcopters for filming events visited by Pres. Rahmon.

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