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Russia warns against US troop deployments in Central Asia

US troops leave their vehicles and move toward a village near Forward Operating Base Zangabad in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (File photo by Stars and Stripes)

A senior Russian diplomat has said Moscow has warned the United States against deploying its troops in the former Soviet Central Asian nations following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday that Moscow delivered the message to Washington during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Geneva last month, America’s Stars and Stripes newspaper reported. 

The warning comes as US Central Command announced last week that the process to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan was more than 90% complete. This also comes ahead of a formal end to the US war in Afghanistan on August 31, a date set by US President Joe Biden as he looks to pull out the United States from the two-decade-old aggression.

"I would emphasize that the redeployment of the American permanent military presence to the countries neighboring Afghanistan is unacceptable," Ryabkov said.

 "We told the Americans in a direct and straightforward way that it would change a lot of things not only in our perceptions of what's going on in that important region, but also in our relations with the United States,” he added. 

The Russian diplomat also said that Moscow has also issued the warning to Central Asian nations.

"We cautioned them against such steps, and we also have had a frank talk on the subject with our Central Asian allies, neighbors and friends and also other countries in the region that would be directly affected," Ryabkov said in an interview published in the Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn magazine.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and any presence of foreign forces on their territories must be approved by the security pact. 

Last week, US troops quietly vacated Bagram Air Base, the largest US military installation in Afghanistan, which once hosted more than 100,000 US troops.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan comes amidst surge in violence and takeover of multiple districts in northern parts of the country by the Taliban militant group.

Biden said that “the likelihood there will be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.”

The US president has faced criticism at home over the withdrawal, although his Republican predecessor Donald Trump had brokered an agreement with the Taliban to end US involvement in the war.

He has also been accused by Afghan politicians and human rights activists of abandoning the country at a time when the Taliban and its affiliates have upped the ante.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of the so-called war against terror.

Washington has spent trillions of dollars waging war on the impoverished country, which has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans dead.

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