Russia-led bloc to hold army drills on Afghan border

By: AFP      Published: 07:49 PM, 16 Sep, 2021
Russia-led bloc to hold army drills on Afghan border

A Russia-led security bloc said Thursday that it planned to hold large military drills in Tajikistan next month amid what it described as a deteriorating situation in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Moscow has moved to cement its position as a key player in the region after the United States' hasty retreat from Afghanistan and the Taliban's takeover of the country. 

The general secretary of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Stanislav Zas said the group would hold several "large scale exercises" in the ex-Soviet state. 

Tajikistan is the only country out of the six-member bloc led by Russia that shares a border with Afghanistan. 

The series of drills will include "our largest exercise this year," Zas said. 

The group has taken "collective measures" to ensure Tajikistan's security in case of an "aggravation" on its border with Afghanistan, he added. 

The CSTO said in a joint statement that it was alarmed by the deterioration of security in Afghanistan. 

Zas announced the drills after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put the Taliban on notice Wednesday, noting that Moscow was monitoring the group's fulfilment of promises to prevent radical groups from launching attacks on Afghanistan's neighbours.  

Countries allied with Russia and China are holding a series of meetings in Tajikistan this week, centering around crisis-hit Afghanistan. 

Russia has ramped up military drills in Central Asia in recent months since the Taliban began a series of lightning offensives that culminated with the hardliners capturing Kabul last month. 

In addition to drills in CSTO members Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Moscow has conducted joint exercises with Uzbekistan, a former member of the bloc that shares a 144-kilometre border with Afghanistan.