Russia pursues diplomacy backed by military exercise to stabilise Eurasia amid Taliban surge & fears of ISIS

Russia that has deep interests in Afghanistan is pursuing a twin track policy by pursuing diplomacy backed by military exercises with two of erstwhile Soviet Republics on the other hand to safeguard its security interests and keep Eurasian region stable.

The Russian military has stated that it will conduct military drills next month with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan where the Taliban have launched an offensive against Afghan government troops. These measures have been undertaken even as Moscow remain diplomatically engaged with various stakeholders in Afghanistan including Taliban besides other powers bilaterally as well as through Moscow and Troika plus format.

Russian Defence Ministry said that the joint drills will take place August 5-10 at the Kharbmaidon training ground in Tajikistan near the Afghan border.

Alexander Lapin, commander of the Russian Central Military District, said that the troops will run drills to defeat illegal armed units that invaded the territory of an allied country. Defence Ministry said troops from a Russian military base in Tajikistan and the Central Military District will take part in the war games. Moscow besides Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are worried over splinter terror groups entering Central Asia and Eurasia.

Russian tanks were deployed near the Afghan-Tajik border on Tuesday ahead of military exercises next month and Moscow announced more drills in neighbouring Uzbekistan as regional tensions over the Taliban’s gains in Afghanistan remained high.

Tank crews from Russia’s military base in Tajikistan, its largest on foreign soil, made a journey to a military range near the Afghan border, the TASS news agency cited Russia’s Central Military District as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

During the deployment, the T-72 tank crews practised protecting convoys and repelling enemy fire, TASS reported.

“Upon arrival at the range, the crews started setting up their positions and providing cover for combat vehicles,” the statement said. One of Kremlin’s top priorities has been to strengthen the 201st military base in Tajikistan, Russia’s largest base in Central Asia.

On Tuesday, Russia said joint exercises with Uzbek troops in southern Uzbekistan, also near the Afghan border, would run from July 30 to August 10, involving around 1,500 troops and 200 vehicles, including aircraft.

Russia still maintains a significant military presence in Central Asia. Moscow is the region’s largest arms supplier and has troops stationed at bases in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These three Central Asian republics are also members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led military alliance including some of the erstwhile Soviet era states.

In late April, Russia held a large-scale exercise with Tajikistan involving over 50,000 military personnel and 700 units of military hardware, ranging from fighter jets and tanks to rocket launchers and artillery. The drills took place near Tajikistan’s southern border with Afghanistan and centered on a border breach scenario.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had traveled to Tajikistan days after the exercise to sign an agreement to establish a joint air defense system. Shoigu also visited Uzbekistan, where he announced that the Russian and Uzbek defense ministries had adopted a four-year “strategic partnership” format, the first of its kind.

In a March interview with a Kazakh media house, Shoigu cautioned that Afghanistan was at risk of becoming a safe haven for extremist groups and drug traffickers following the U.S. withdrawal. “Large groups of terrorists are moving to different countries, including Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the Islamic State “has already appeared there, and we are observing the arrival of those who, firstly, left Afghanistan for Syria, and plus those who came from Syria to another country are added to them.”

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