The surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border has seen a significant rise under President Biden’s administration, particularly from Tajikistan, a nation notorious for being a recruitment ground for ISIS. According to an alleged data leak to the New York Post, over 1,500 Tajik migrants crossed the border between October 2020 and May 2024. In this year alone, more than 500 Tajiks have been apprehended.

 

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Tajikistan, a small Central Asian country bordering China and Afghanistan, has long been a significant source of terrorists for ISIS and its offshoot, ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan Province). This extremist group, responsible for numerous attacks, continues to recruit heavily from Tajikistan. Notably, Tajik nationals carried out a deadly attack on a concert hall in Moscow on March 22, resulting in 145 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

 

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Javed Ali, a former counterterrorism official now at the University of Michigan, warned that the surge in Tajik migrants might include ISIS operatives infiltrating the US to prepare for attacks, the New York Post reported. This concern was echoed by the recent ICE arrests of eight Tajik migrants with suspected ISIS ties, who had settled in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

 

A soldier in an ISIS uniform prepares ammunition. January 18th, 2017.

Dr. Edward Lemon, a Texas A&M University professor specializing in Central Asia, emphasized that Tajikistan’s oppressive counter-extremism measures might be fueling the very terrorism they aim to combat, per the New York Post. With a population of 10 million, the country has seen significant migration, with over a million Tajiks living in Russia. As conditions in Russia have deteriorated due to the Ukraine conflict, many Tajiks are seeking new destinations, including the US, facilitated by human traffickers advertising such opportunities.

 

In response to the growing threat, the Biden administration recently sanctioned four individuals based in Central Asia and Turkey involved in an ISIS-linked smuggling operation. One of these individuals, Adam Khamirzaev, a commander of the ISIS-Georgia Province, was implicated in aiding the smuggling network to facilitate travel to the US.

 

Tajikistan has a turbulent history marked by violence and instability. The country endured a brutal civil war from 1992 to 1997, which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and displaced over a million people. This conflict created a fertile ground for extremist ideologies to take root. In recent years, ISIS and its affiliates have exploited this instability, aggressively recruiting Tajik nationals for their operations.

 

This surge in migrants from a known terrorist hotspot under the current administration raises serious concerns about national security. The policies in place seem inadequate in addressing the potential threat posed by these individuals. As Tajikistan continues to produce a significant number of extremists, it is crucial for the US to strengthen its border security and counterterrorism measures to prevent any possible attacks on American soil.

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