Russia plots army drills at Afghanistan border as Putin tightens stranglehold on region

Afghanistan: Taliban fighters capture US military equipment

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And defence minister Sergey Shoigu also said his country was ready to provide military assistance to Tajikistan against any “militants” crossing the border from the mountainous war-torn country, which the Taliban is now thought to be in control of 85 percent of. Speaking today, Mr Shoigu claimed Moscow was responding to what he referred to as “emerging threats” against the backdrop of the US withdrawal, which will see all troops leave the country by August 31.

Mr Shoigu explained: “Speaking generally about our cooperation, it is developing quite successfully. We are holding a series of drills with Tajikistan in the wake of those threats that are emerging.

“Coming next are drills with our Uzbek counterparts to be followed by trilateral Russia-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan manoeuvres.”

Mr Shoigu, speaking alongside Tajikistan’s Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo, added: “I hope that we will hold them within the planned time limits and with the expected effect.”

Mr Shoigu stressed that “quite a lot of various sorts of risks and security threats are emerging”.

Referring to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, he said: “Nonetheless, we must both discuss and make appropriate decisions and measures within the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to ensure the security of the borders and territories of the countries that are parties to the Collective Security Treaty.

“I hope to discuss all these issues with you.”

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Large-scale work was underway to ensure the security of the Tajik-Afghan border, Mr Shoigu emphasised.

He added: “We are certainly not ignoring the developments on the border and the attempts by militants to enter Tajikistan.

“This is why I can say for sure that if an ally of ours, that is, a member of the CSTO, faces any threat, Russia will react to that, particularly by engaging the 201st base located in Tajikistan.

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“Maintaining stability and calm in the region where one of the CSTO’s Central Asian members is located is what the 201st base is there for.”

Russia was keeping tabs on militants from the Islamic State which he claimed were moving into Afghanistan from other countries, specifically Syria and Libya, Mr Shoigu stressed.

He said: “We do hope that some consensus and national reconciliation will be achieved in Afghanistan.

“However, we see IS units actively entering there from various regions, including Syria and Libya.

“Notably, we can see that their movement is organised quite well.”

Speaking today US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said violence carried out by the Taliban against the Afghan people was deeply troubling and not a good sign for the future of the country.

Mr Blinken, who was in New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders, said the only path to peace in Afghanistan was through negotiations, and that all parties must take them seriously.

However, also today, China told a visiting Taliban delegation it expected the insurgent group to play an important role in ending Afghanistan’s war and rebuilding the country, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Nine Taliban representatives met Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on a two-day visit during which the peace process and security issues were discussed, a Taliban spokesperson said.

Wang said the Taliban is expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry.

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