U.S. journalist has taken Tajik frontier post deployed in the Murgab district of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) for Chinese military facility, Tajik military official told Asia-Plus in an interview.

According to him, this frontier post has been built by Chinese within the framework of an agreement reached between Tajikistan and China in 2016.

“In early October 2016, Tajikistan and China signed a government-to-government agreement on construction of a number frontier posts along Tajikistan’s common border with Afghanistan.  Under this agreement, the Chinese has awarded grants and begun constructing five frontier posts and one training center itself,” the military official said.  

One of these frontier posts has been built in the Murgab district, he said, noting that since the frontier posts had been built by Chinese specialists they bear plates in Chinese language saying that they had been built by Chinese specialists.  

Meanwhile, the reporting by Gerry Shih, which was published in The Washington Post on February 19, notes that the outpost of about two dozen buildings and lookout towers in Tajikistan’s Murgab district illustrates how the footprint of Chinese hard power has been expanding alongside the country’s swelling economic reach.

“Tajikistan — awash in Chinese investment — joins the list of Chinese military sites that includes Djibouti in the strategic Horn of Africa and man-made islands in the South China Sea, in the heart of Southeast Asia.”   

The article, in particular, notes that details about China’s activities at the facilities, some of which bear the Chinese and Tajik emblems, are not made public.  Also unclear are the arrangements over their funding, construction and ownership. Satellite imagery shows what appear to be two clusters of buildings, barracks and training grounds, about 10 miles apart near the mouth of the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan. 

A Chinese soldier with the surname Ma, who was reportedly buying goods in the Murgab bazaar, told The Post that Chinese forces have been in Tajikistan for three to four years. 

“We’ve been here three, four years.” Ma said in a brief conversation while his Chinese comrades, guided by a Tajik interpreter, bought snacks and topped up their mobile SIM cards in Murgab, a sprawl of low-rises about 85 miles north of the base, according to The Post.

 China’s Foreign Ministry reportedly declined to comment and directed questions to the Defense Ministry, which did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry said there are “no People’s Republic of China military bases on the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan,” nor “any talks whatsoever” to establish one, according to The Post.

According to the reporting, U.S. officials say they are aware of the Chinese deployment but do not have a clear understanding of its operations. They say they do not object to the Chinese presence because the United States also believes that a porous Afghan-Tajik border could pose a security risk.