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Russia, two other states to hold joint drills near Afghanistan

The file photo shows Russian soldiers during an exercise in the Khatlon Region, Tajikistan, in March 2017.

The Russian military has announced that more than 1,500 troops from Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are scheduled to take part in joint drills next month near the border with Afghanistan, where the Taliban militant group has over the past month ramped up offensives against Afghan government forces to seize further territory.

The press office of Russia's Central Military District said on Tuesday that the joint drills would take place from August 5 to 10 at the Kharbmaidon training ground in Tajikistan, 20 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan.

"Overall, more than 1,500 troops and about 300 items of armament and military hardware from the three countries will be involved in the tactical drills," the press office said in a statement. The troops will practice thwarting an intrusion by outlawed armed gangs and eliminating "radical terrorist groups," the statement said.

The press office said that at all stages of the drills, the troops would focus on tactical measures, and employing reconnaissance/fire and reconnaissance/strike systems.

The state news agency TASS said the Russian military contingent in the drills would mostly comprise units of Russia's 201st military base stationed in Tajikistan, including mountain motor rifle, tank, and artillery troops.

Moreover, Russian radiation, chemical, and biological protection troops and mobile electronic warfare groups will be involved in the drills.

Russia to target terrorists invading Central Asia

In a related development on Tuesday, Russia's special presidential envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov hailed earlier joint drills, in August and said, "Such exercises are useful for regulating mutual cooperation and training in war readiness."

Kabulov also expressed concern about recent territory gains by the Taliban in Afghanistan and warned that Russia would target the militants if they attacked the Central Asia region.

"If terrorist groups invade Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, Russia will target them as part of agreements in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) as well as in the framework of bilateral documents signed with Uzbekistan," Kabulov said, referring to an intergovernmental military alliance in Eurasia that consists of several post-Soviet states.

The Taliban claim to have seized control of 90 percent of Afghanistan's borders, following their offensives across the country amid withdrawal of US-led foreign forces.

The United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext that the Taliban militants were harboring al-Qaeda. The invasion removed the Taliban from power but it worsened the security situation in the country.

Washington has spent trillions of dollars in the war, which has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans dead.

The Taliban militants have over the past weeks intensified operations against the Afghan forces, who are trying to reclaim the lost territories and restore relative calm across the conflict-ridden country.

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