Watch Mass Redeployment of Russian Forces in Tajikistan Amid Escalating Afghanistan Tensions
12:49 GMT 28.07.2021 (Updated: 13:07 GMT 28.07.2021)
Russia has been closely monitoring the security situation in Afghanistan amid the continued destabilisation of the war-torn country in recent months. Last month, Moscow warned that the Collective Security Treaty Organisation would “act decisively” to stop any aggression or provocations on the allied states’ borders.
The Russian military contingent in Tajikistan has redeployed from their permanent base in Dushanbe to the Harb-Maidon training area near the border with Afghanistan, the Central Military District has announced.
“Russian forces from the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan have completed the regrouping of troops at the Harb-Maidon training ground for joint exercises between Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan,” the military said in a statement Wednesday.
The redeployed forces include motorised riflemen units, tank troops, artillery and anti-aircraft troops and engineering corps forces, along with army aviation helicopters.
Video footage of the redeployment showed tan-coloured Russian tanks, BTR armoured personnel carriers, trucks, artillery systems and other units driving down local highways to their destination, flanked by Mil Mi-24 gunships.
The distance between their Dushanbe base and the training area is about 200 km, and Russian forces are said to have engaged in training along the way, including in convoy protection, manoeuvring in contaminated terrain, repelling of sabotage attacks and potential air assaults by a conditional enemy. Troops set up command posts, completed engineering work for firing positions and camouflage for equipment.
The Russian forces will be carrying out a joint exercise with Tajikistani and Uzbekistani forces starting next week, with the drills, taking place from 5-10 August, occurring against the background of the deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan, which borders both Central Asian nations to their south.
Tajikistan is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia as members. Uzbekistan is not a member of the security bloc, but maintains close security and military ties with Russia as well.
Moscow: Tajikistan Won’t Have to Face Instability Alone
Also on Wednesday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu promised that troops from the 201st Military Base would provide Dushanbe all necessary assistance in the event that the country’s security is threatened.
“Of course, we do not disregard the events taking place on the border, and attempts to move militants onto Tajikistani territory. That is why I can say unequivocally that in the event of a threat against our ally, a member of the CSTO, of course Russia will react, first and foremost via the 201st Military Base that’s situated on the territory of Tajikistan,” Shoigu said.
“The 201st Military Base is in Tajikistan to maintain stability and tranquillity in this region of one of the CSTO’s members in Central Asia,” he added.
Shoigu further indicated that the Russian military was closely monitoring the movements of Daesh (ISIS)* militants to Afghanistan from various other countries. He stressed that Moscow continues to “hope very much” that Afghanistan’s warring parties will be able to reach some kind of consensus and reconciliation to prevent the situation from destabilising further.
Shoigu went on to criticise the US for its “hasty” retreat from Afghanistan, saying the speed of the withdrawal provoked “an additional sharp jump” in tensions and a “surge in hostilities.”
“At the same time, the Americans are more concerned with the creation of new transit routes and logistical structures in Central Asian states and the deployment of their military bases and facilities there,” the minister said. Nothing good could come of such efforts, according to Shoigu, and would “only result in a long-term presence of the NATO alliance in the region and additional instability”.
The 201st Military base is Russia’s largest military facility abroad, and is situated in two cities – Dushanbe and Bokhtar. Its forces include motorised rifle, tank, artillery, reconnaissance and air defence units, as well as communications and NBC protection troops.
Earlier this month, Moscow estimated that the Taliban* controlled about two-thirds
of the 1,357 km-long border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Sputnik that the Islamist militia had seized almost full control
of the frontier with Tajikistan, and said that Afghanistan’s northern provinces were swiftly turning into new potential hotspot as terrorist groups including Daesh and al-Qaeda* gain a foothold in the area. The terrorist presence comes despite a commitment by the Taliban not to allow jihadist forces to operate in territories under their control.
On Monday, Afghan security forces reported
that its commandos had pushed back the Taliban in the province of Balkh, which borders on Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the north, killing nearly two dozen fighters, wounding scores more and seizing weapons during the liberation of Kaldar district and town of Hairatan, a key trade link between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
Kabul has been forced to deploy its mobile, 21,000 troop-strong commando force operating under the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command to various hotspots across the country in recent weeks as the larger military of 186,000 troops suffers from poor morale, occasionally shattering completely
and dissolving in the face of Taliban advances. Afghan forces have been spread thin by Taliban attacks, with the Islamist militant group continuing to gain ground in rural areas even though US intelligence estimates that it only has about 75,000 fighters.
Despite the worsening of the security situation, the Afghan government is still in control all 34 of the country’s provincial capitals, as well as all major highways.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.