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5000 terrorists training in Afghan camps near Tajikistan’s border – CSTO chief

Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov, Chief of the Joint Staff of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (Images courtesy: CSTO)

More than 5,000 militants are on the territory of Afghanistan near the border with Tajikistan, Chief of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Joint Staff revealed on Thursday after a meeting with representatives of the defence ministries of the member states.

The intergovernmental military alliance organisation of former Soviet states including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan besides Russia has been deeply worried about the security threats emanating from the territory of Afghanistan ever since the Taliban takeover of Kabul last August.

On Thursday, while detailing the missions accomplished by the CSTO collective forces in 2021 and outlining their tasks for 2022, Anatoly Sidorov, the head of the CSTO Joint Staff, said that the grouping plans to use all resources available to ensure security of its Central Asian member states.

"There are more than 40 bases and training camps near the state borders with the Republic of Tajikistan, where more than 5,000 militants of various terrorist organisations are concentrated," said Sidorov.

The Russian General added that, at the same time, the Taliban is forming a regular army of about 150,000 troops. 

Afghanistan Taliban

Tajikistan is a frontline state sharing a long border with Afghanistan (1344 km) which in many sections passes through the inaccessible high-mountainous terrain. It is also deeply impacted by the Taliban's military attack on the Panjshir valley where large number of ethnic Tajiks, sharing strong emotional bonds with Tajikistan, reside.

While participating in a conference 'Collective Security in a New Era: Experience and Prospects of the CSTO' organised by Moscow-based think tank Valdai Discussion Club with the support of the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas noted that the situation in Afghanistan remains one of the most serious challenges to collective security of the region.

"We see that at present there is no direct threat of military expansion from the Taliban to neighbouring states, including the territory of the CSTO member state of Tajikistan. At the same time, the relevance of such threats as terrorism and drug trafficking remains," Zas said in his speech at the event.

"In the context of the socio-economic crisis and the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, the relevance of these threats is increasing, as gangs, terrorist organisations and drug trafficking are becoming more active as one of the sources of people's survival," he mentioned.

As reported extensively by IndiaNarrative.com over the past many months, the Central Asia frontline has united to confront Taliban on the Tajik-Afghan border, organising a series of large-scale military exercises of the Collective Forces of the CSTO.  

"Militants with experience in waging war in Syria and Iraq are being drawn there. So, it is possible that terrorists might try to destabilise the situation in neighbouring countries, including the CIS countries, and go as far as starting to expand outrightly," Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned at a meeting of Heads of Security Agencies and Intelligence Services from member-countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in October.

Afghanistan Taliban Terror

Also Read: Putin warns terrorists from Syria and Iraq are pouring into Afghanistan, neighbouring countries must stay alert

CSTO's plan for 2022 includes a number of measures to be taken jointly. The organisation's troops (Collective Forces) are working on special exercises of reconnaissance forces and equipment in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the coming months.

Several other drills are also being planned to test the readiness of national contingents to jointly fulfill the task of neutralizing the challenges in Central Asia.

Sidorov said today that the CSTO member states intend to continue equipping the joint forces with modern weapons, military and special equipment to ensure their high combat readiness in order to effectively counter new challenges and threats. 

2022 also marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Collective Security Treaty and the 20th anniversary of the creation of the organisation.

"I note with satisfaction that over the past years the CSTO has established itself as an important factor in regional and international security in general. A clear confirmation of its maturity and high efficiency was the coordinated actions of the peacekeeping forces to assist Kazakhstan in stabilizing the domestic political situation," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev met Putin in Moscow today, their first in-person meeting after last month's large-scale violence in the Kazakh territory.  

"This is our first meeting after the January events, when Kazakhstan became, without any exaggeration, a victim of some international gangs that took advantage of the difficult situation within the country. We met with you before the New Year – nothing foreshadowed the development of such events," Putin said while welcoming Tokayev at the Kremlin.

Also Read: Russia interested in growth of India's influence as an independent power centre, says Denis Alipov, Moscow's new envoy to New Delhi