Over the weekend, its insurgents swept through a series of districts in northern Afghanistan. In desperate retreat, more than 1,000 Afghan government troops fled Monday across the border of the country’s Badakhshan province over to Tajikistan. It was the third such wave to flee into Tajikistan in just three days and the fifth in two weeks in an area that two decades ago was a stronghold of anti-Taliban resistance.
Afghanistan’s northern borderlands provide a worrying sign of things to come. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ordered a mobilization of some 20,000 reserve troops to the border, while Reuters reported the country — the poorest in Central Asia — was considering preparing refugee camps in case of an influx of fleeing Afghan civilians. Tajik authorities have left open border crossings now held by the Taliban on the Afghanistan side, including the major bridge over the Pyanj River at Sher Khan Bandar, which was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Taliban is already collecting customs revenue at what is the main trade gateway between the two countries.