Moscow says troops from Russia and Uzbekistan have begun joint military drills 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 Russian Defense Ministry made the announcement in a statement on Monday, saying 1,500 Russian and Uzbek troops would take part in the five-day exercises, which will take place at the Termez military site in southern Uzbekistan, the state news agency TASS reported.
It also noted that the troops would train to carry out missions to guarantee territorial integrity on the border with Afghanistan, amid the Taliban militant group’s advance and the deteriorating situation in the war-torn country.
The ministry further said it would send a much bigger military contingent to Tajikistan for separate trilateral exercises, which are due to take place from August 5 to 10 at the Kharbmaidon training ground in the Central Asian country, 20 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan.
It went on to say that 1,800 of its soldiers would take part in the Tajik drills, instead of 1,000 as initially planned.
Moscow will also use 420 units of military hardware for the drills, double the quantity originally planned, the ministry said, adding that the total forces of the three countries participating in the exercises will be more than 2,500 soldiers in total.
This comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has already said that Moscow would provide its Central Asian ally Tajikistan with military assistance if any security threats emanate from Afghanistan, as the Taliban militant group continues to make territorial gains across the war-ravaged country.
He had also warned that members of the Daesh militant group are moving into Afghanistan from Syria, Libya, and several other countries.
Russia has also censured the US mission in Afghanistan as a “failure” and blamed the withdrawal of foreign forces for the war-torn country’s rapidly deteriorating stability.
The United States, along with its NATO allies, invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. The invasion, which has led to the longest war in US history, removed the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country.
The Taliban militants are now intensifying their attacks as the US-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal under a deal with the Taliban. The US and its NATO allies are blamed for the surge in violence in Afghanistan, and many say the invaders have failed to stabilize the security situation in the country.
The militants are believed to control about half of Afghanistan's roughly 400 districts.
The Taliban also claim to have seized control of 90 percent of Afghanistan's borders. The government in Kabul has dismissed that claim.