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Tajikistan holds largest-ever military drill

July 23, 2021

The Tajik government has become alarmed by growing instability in neighboring Afghanistan.

Military exercise in Tajikistan
The Russian military has agreed to help Tajikistan secure its border with AfghanistanImage: Olga Balashova/ITAR-TASS/imago images

Tajikistan held its largest-ever military drill on Thursday, as the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban group makes sweeping territorial gains in neighboring Afghanistan. 

Over 230,000 Tajik troops were assembled for a combat maneuver at the request of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. In addition to active soldiers, reservists also took part in the exercise, along with aviation and artillery forces.

Rahmon expresses concern about Afghanistan instability

Rahmon stressed the importance of the drill during a military parade on Thursday.

"The situation in our neighbouring country — the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, especially in its northern regions that border our country — remains extremely complex and uncertain," Rahmon said in televised remarks. "It is getting more complicated day by day and even hour and by hour."

The Tajik leader called on troops to "ensure the protection of our state border." Rahmon had previously ordered an additional 20,000 troops to be deployed to the Tajik-Afghan border region.

Some Afghans have fled to Tajikistan amid heavy fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The Taliban has been rapidly advancing in Afghanistan and has taken control of strategic border crossings from the Afghan government. The gains come as the US and other NATO allies completely withdraw forces from the country.

Taliban makes bold border claim

The Taliban claimed it controls 90% of Afghanistan's borders in an interview with Russian media on Thursday. The claim has not been independently verified.

"Afghanistan's borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, or about 90% of the border, are under our control," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the Russian state-run RIA Novosti news outlet.

A study conducted by German news agency dpa in mid-July found the Taliban has taken over more than half of Afghanistan's roughly 400 districts.

Russia is expected to hold joint military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan next month. Moscow will reportedly reinforce its military base in Tajikistan with additional infantry fighting vehicles.

The Kremlin has been a fierce critic of US President Joe Biden's decision to pull out troops from the country. Some Western observers believe the Taliban could completely take over the country after the withdrawal and roll back civil liberties and women's rights.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to fight jihadist organization al-Qaida, the group behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The US, along with other NATO countries, ousted the Taliban from power during the invasion and trained Afghan government security forces.

wd/sri (AFP, Reuters, dpa)