The Afghanistan Analysts Network had a post recently summarizing the recent history of the Kyrgyz population of the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. Originally the Kyrgyz population in the area and in the larger Badakhshan region simply used the area as seasonal pasturage for their animals, but as Russia (and later the USSR) began to impose restrictions within its territories and to police the border, the Kyrgyz waiting out the problems inside the USSR found themselves cut off from the larger Kyrgyz population with Soviet Central Asia. Similarly, the conclusion of the Communist Revolution in China in 1949 resulted in a further influx of Kyrgyz from Xinjiang, although a sizable Kyrgyz population still remains in China. In 1978, approximately 1,300 of the few-thousand Kyrgyz fled to Pakistan after the Saur Revolution in Afghanistan, and most of those were eventually resettled in Turkey in 1982 (after other locations, such as Alaska, had been dismissed). Less than 2,000 are thought to currently remain in the Wakhan, in increasingly desperate circumstances. Hermann Kreutzmann in 2003 and Ted Callahan in 2007 are among the more recent scholars to address the problems of the Kyrgyz in Afghanistan.
While there have been discussions between the Kyrgyz elders of the Wakhan and the Kyrgyzstani government, no large scale resettlement of Wakhani Kyrgyz has yet occurred since the fall of the Taliban. Similar to and perhaps even more pronounced than the differences between Afghanistan Tajiks and Tajikistan Tajiks, Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz are reported to find little to relate to in their ethnic cousins in the Wakhan, and are less than enthusiastic about bringing them to Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz of the Wakhan, meanwhile, suffer one of the worst infant mortality rates in the region, and a pernicious and growing opiate problem. Consumed by a myriad of other issues, the Afghan central government in Kabul, and even the provincial authorities in Faisalabad, have had little inclination or ability to study or address the problems of the Kyrgyz in the Wakhan.
What happens to the Kyrgyz of the Wakhan in the next few years will be indicative of both Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to the Kyrgyz diaspora and Afghanistan’s abilities to deal with its minority populations. I am not optimistic about either.