Mon, 02 Aug 2021

Russian tanks have deployed near the Afghan-Tajik border ahead of military exercises next month, while Moscow announced more maneuvers in neighboring Uzbekistan amid increasing security concerns in Central Asia over the Taliban's territorial gains in northern Afghanistan.

Tanks stationed at Moscow's military base in Tajikistan arrived at a military range near the Afghan border, some 200 kilometers away, Russia's Central Military District said in a statement on July 20.

The drills will take place from August 5-10 at Tajikistan's Harb-Maidon training ground located some 20 kilometers from the Afghan border, and involve Russian, Tajik, and Uzbek forces, according to Russia's military.

It said that personnel from Russia's 201st military base stationed in Tajikistan, mountainous vehicular troops, tanks, and artillery units, as well as the district's special units will take part in the maneuvers aimed to defeat 'illegal armed units that invaded the territory of an allied country.'

Also on July 20, Russia said it would hold joint military maneuvers with Uzbekistan on the Central Asian nation's Termez military field, also near the Afghan border, from July 30 to August 10.

According to Russia's Central Military District's press service, the drills will involve around 1,500 troops and around 200 vehicles, including aircraft.

The troops will practice actions to ensure 'the territorial integrity of Central Asian states,' the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Hundreds of Afghans, including police and government troops, have fled the country in recent weeks and entered Tajikistan and Uzbekistan amid the Taliban offensive. The militants have captured around one-third of Afghanistan's 423 districts since the start of the international military withdrawal on May 1.

The Taliban ramped up its offensives after U.S. President Joe Biden said in April that the withdrawal of U.S. forces would be completed by September 11. Biden later moved the date up to August 31.

The rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces, and the Taliban's battlefield successes, have caused concerns that the Western-backed government in Kabul may collapse.

With reporting by TASS, RIA Novosti, Interfax, Reuters, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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