Tajikistan Holds Massive Combat-Readiness Check Amid Rising Instability In Neighboring Afghanistan
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Tajikistan says it has put its entire armed forces on high alert for a combat-readiness check and relocated thousands of troops to the border with Afghanistan amid increasing security concerns in Central Asia over the Taliban's territorial gains in the northern part of the war-torn country.
Tajikistan has mobilized 100,000 active servicemen, 130,000 reserve officers and soldiers, as well as law enforcement agencies for the exercise on July 22 on the orders of President Emomali Rahmon, in the biggest such exercise in the 30-year history of independent Tajikistan.
In addition to the check, 20,000 members of the military reserve have been sent to the Tajik-Afghan border to reinforce border troops.
The Taliban in recent weeks has brought large swathes of Afghanistan under its control as U.S.-led international forces withdraw, including the main Shir Khan Bandar border crossing with Tajikistan. Tajik authorities say more than 900 kilometers of Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan is currently controlled by the Taliban.
Amid concerns that the Afghan government may collapse in the face of the rapid withdrawal of foreign forces and the Taliban's battlefield successes, Russia has announced joint military maneuvers with Uzbekistan from July 30 to August 10.
Moscow, which operates a military base in Tajikistan, also plans to hold joint drills there with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on August 5-10.
Speaking in front of National Guard personnel on July 22, Rahmon said that the situation in Afghanistan, especially in the northern Afghan regions bordering Tajikistan, "remains extremely difficult and uncertain."
"The situation is getting more complicated day by day and even hour by hour," he added.
Rahmon, who has led Tajikistan since 1994, also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin.
A statement said the phone call took place "on the initiative of the Tajik side" and that the topics of the discussion included the situation in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Afghans, including police and government troops, have fled the country in recent weeks and entered Tajikistan and neighboring Uzbekistan as the Taliban ramped up its offensives against the Western-backed government in Kabul.
As the United States plans to complete its withdrawal by August 31, the insurgents now control more than half of the country's district centers, U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on July 21.
Reacting to those comments, the Afghan Defense Ministry told RFE/RL that "efforts are under way based on a specific plan to bring the lost districts back under the control of Afghan forces."
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the insurgents had "no plans to capture major cities."
Source: Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.