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Russia set to modernize Tajikistan armed forces to tackle threat from Afghanistan

Situation in Afghanistan, particularly on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, was given special attention during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Dushanbe and his meeting with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon on Tuesday (Images courtesy: President.tj)

Pledging full support to Tajikistan to tackle the threats emanating from Afghan territory on its southern borders, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow is "doing everything to normalize the situation" in the war-torn country.

Situation in Afghanistan, particularly on the Tajik-Afghan border, was given "special attention" during Putin's visit to Dushanbe and his detailed meeting with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon on Tuesday evening.

This is the Russian President's first foreign visit after the start of conflict in Ukraine on February 24, and only the second after he had visited China on February 4 for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

At a meeting of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Moscow last month, all members of the military alliance of former Soviet states had agreed that Afghanistan remains a hotbed of international Islamist terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal migration after the return of Taliban in Kabul.

On Tuesday at Dushanbe's Palace of the Nation, both Putin and Rahmon discussed issues of expanding cooperation in the field of security, including through military and military-technical cooperation, as well as in the field of defence construction, especially in terms of modernizing the armed forces of Tajikistan and strengthening the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border.

"You know that we are doing everything to normalize the situation in this country. We are trying to build relations with those political forces that control the situation, but we proceed from the fact that all ethnic groups represented in Afghanistan, as it sounded before, should take a full part in the government of the country. In this vein, we will continue to work," said Putin.

So far, Russia has positioned its 201 motorised division in Tajikistan, but Dushanbe could feel insecure if this division or its parts are deployed by Moscow in the Ukrainian theatre. 

There have also been credible reports that after losing their foothold in Afghanistan, the Americans are trying to push their way into Tajikistan in order to resurrect their presence in Eurasia.

General Michael Erik Kurilla, the US Central Command commander who recently visited Tajikistan said that Dushanbe could beef up its air force by inducting in its arsenal, aircraft that had been flown into Tajikistan by the ousted government in Afghanistan.  

"Our hope is to be able to hand over some or all of the aircraft to the Tajik government. I do not have a timeline on when this will occur, but we are working hard to make this happen,” Reuters reported General Michael Kurilla as saying. 

Also Read: Taliban’s plan to rebuild Afghanistan’s Air Force suffers a massive blow

The Russian President told his Tajik counterpart that Moscow continues to have "contacts with all political forces" in Afghanistan and a representative delegation from Kabul had also attended the recently-held Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"But from here, of course, you can see better what is happening in the country and what needs to be done to ensure that the situation in this region, in the zone of our joint responsibility, is stable and does not threaten anyone, any neighbours, and benefits, including the multinational people of Afghanistan," added Putin.

Vladimir Putin

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, Tajikistan, due to its geographical location – it shares a 1344 km long border with Afghanistan – remains at the forefront of countering the export of extremism from Afghanistan.

Rahmon has for long batted to spotlight the unrelenting activity of armed groups on the territory of Afghanistan which continue to threaten the security and stability of the entire Central Asian region.

The CSTO member countries which had held a series of large-scale military exercises on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border last year, have also planned a whole series of drills for this fall in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"We will also deal with the issues of equipping the CSTO Collective Forces with modern weapons and equipment, increasing the operational compatibility of their military contingents, and improving the coherence of the joint actions of our military structures and special services," the Russian President had assured all the regional leaders at the Kremlin last month.  

In spite of the situation in Ukraine and the sweeping financial sanctions against Moscow, Russia remains an important strategic partner and ally of Tajikistan.

As Rahmon personally received Putin, the Dushanbe International Airport was decorated with national flags of both countries.

"The Russian Federation remains our leading trade and economic partner: over the five months of this year, mutual trade has grown by almost 50 percent. Cooperation between regions is actively developing. Today, more than 80 regions of Russia have business and other ties with Tajikistan," stated the Tajikistan President.

Also Read: Putin pledges support to Central Asia in fight against terror radiating from Afghanistan