The Russian and Tajikistan military contingents launched a three-day joint training exercise at the Kharb-Maidon training ground in Tajikistan, near the northern Afghanistan border on Monday, the Russian State TASS News Agency reported.
According to the TASS News, the drills, scheduled to run until April 7, will involve the preparation and execution of joint operations in mountainous terrain, aimed at eliminating armed gangs attempting to infiltrate the Central Asian countries.
The News Agency quoted the Russia’s Central Military District, saying “the drill is a practice and preparation to carry out a joint operation on mountainous terrain to eliminate outlawed armed gangs intruding into the territory of an allied state and also exercising command and control of joint forces in blocking and destroying an illegal armed formation.”
TASS News added that the Russian military contingent, composed of over 300 personnel, is mainly comprised of units from the 201st military base, including motor rifle, armored, and artillery troops, as well as radiation, chemical, and biological protection teams, and mobile electronic warfare groups from the Central Military District.
The Central Asian countries and Russia have previously conducted similar military exercises in northern Afghanistan, expressing concern over the potential infiltration of terrorist groups from northern Afghanistan into Central Asia.
Addressing a meeting of the CSTO senior officials on March 31, the Secretary General of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Imangali Tasmagambetov warned that there is an increasing risk that terrorist groups and extremist ideas will infiltrate the territories of CSTO allies and the complex threats coming from Afghanistan are of particular concern. He also noted that apart from various terrorist groups, the forces behind illicit drug production and trafficking were also strengthening their positions in Afghanistan.
In the same day, Yuri Shuvalov, the representative of CSTO Secretariat claimed that the member countries are engaging in talks with the Taliban to strengthen security in the region amidst growing concerns posed by the extremist forces based in Afghanistan.
In February, the CSTO’s chief of joint staff, Anatoly Sidorov, had claimed that the Islamic State – Khorasan province (ISKP) had amassed up to 6,500 members, with 4,000 located along Tajikistan’s southern borders in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan, Kunduz, and Takhar provinces.
The Taliban, however, have denied the presence of ISKP fighters in Afghanistan, claiming they have suppressed the group, and that the perpetrators of their attacks in Afghanistan come from outside of the country.