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Russia activates military base in Tajikistan as border tensions with Afghanistan rise

Before the rumble: An artilleryman of the Central Military District loads a self-propelled howitzer during a training exercise (Images courtesy: Twitter/@MOD_Russia)

The Russian military base stationed in Tajikistan remains combat ready amid growing tensions between Dushanbe and Kabul after the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan.

The press service of Russia's Central Military District reported on Thursday that servicemen of the 201st Russian military base conducted an exercise in the mountains of Tajikistan where they "thwarted the plans of the militants" after noticing a detachment of an "illegal armed formation" moving along a mountain serpentine towards the village.

The motorized rifle and tank units of the base had last week also performed exercises of control shooting from small arms, grenade launchers and combat vehicles in the military facilities at the Lyaur and Sambuli mountainous ranges. 

The 201st military base is the largest military facility of Russia, located beyond its borders. It is stationed in two cities – Dushanbe and Bokhtar (former Kurgan-Tube). According to the agreement signed in October 2012, the formation will be in Tajikistan until 2042.

However, the region has seen some intense simulation exercises involving T-72 tanks, BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles to target the mock enemy since the collapse of government in neighbouring Afghanistan. The use of mechanised columns shows Russia's focus on high-speed mobile warfare, capable of seizing the initiative and preventing hostile forces to regroup.


In August, about 1800 servicemen of the Russian formation took part in a joint exercise of the military contingents of Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

October would see three more large-scale military exercises on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border as the military contingents from the member states of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – "jointly counter" the security threats emanating from the territory of Afghanistan.

The Russian military's state of preparedness comes in the wake of escalating war of words between Tajikistan and Afghanistan with reports of both sides pulling armed forces towards the common border worrying Moscow. 

On Thursday, Moscow also opened the diplomatic front, calling upon the parties concerned to search for "mutually acceptable options" to resolve the situation.

"We are observing with concern the growing tension in Tajik-Afghan ties amid the tough rhetoric of the two countries’ leaders," Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexey Zaytsev said yesterday.

"According to the information from the Taliban, in Afghanistan's border province of Takhar alone there are tens of thousands of special forces fighters," he revealed

Obviously, the Russians are working on a double track. While Moscow is engaging with the Taliban, in a diplomatic push to persuade the extremist group to form an inclusive government, it is at the same time keeping its powder dry to ensure terrorism from Afghanistan does not permeate into Central Asia, Russia's backyard.

The threat is quite real. As reported by India Narrative earlier, buoyed by the Taliban's success, there are reports of dozens of terror sleeper cells are getting active in Central Asian countries.

Ata Mohammad Noor, leader of Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan and the former governor of Balkh Province, had recently made public a list of 39 jihadist organisations which are getting ready to launch operations in the region on the orders of Taliban leaders.

According to Noor, the leaders of these organisations are located in Badakhshan, a province in the northeast of Afghanistan which borders both Tajikistan and China in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges. 

Reasons enough for Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon – who has repeatedly said that the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban poses a serious threat to regional security and stability – to sound the alarm bells.

"The crisis situation in Afghanistan, which shares almost 1,400 km of border with Tajikistan, cannot leave the government and the people of our country indifferent," Rahmon had said while addressing the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, last week.

Calling the current situation in Afghanistan's Panjshir province a "humanitarian catastrophe", Rahmon had said that the Tajiks of Afghanistan, who comprise more than 46 per cent of the population of the country, have the "right to take their deserved pie" in the public affairs.

Even though the Tajikistan President had said that his country will not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, he had made it immensely clear that the region should not be dragged into the abyss of imposed bloody wars again.

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