The head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) said the ongoing instability in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to Central Asia and foreign troops need to stay in that country, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha was speaking at the end of a two-day meeting in Dushanbe of a working group of senior national security council officials from CSTO member states.
The CSTO groups Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. All members except for Uzbekistan sent representatives to Dushanbe.
Bordyuzha said he thinks Afghanistan is not yet ready to neutralize the threat posed by Islamic insurgents. He said peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and the training of a fully functional professional army will take additional time.
Bordyuzha, a former Russian general who has headed the CSTO since 2003, said if international forces were to leave Afghanistan the country and the entire region would be in trouble.
He said participants in the Dushanbe meeting discussed the situation in regions of Tajikistan that border Afghanistan and the possibility of a recurrence of last fall's fighting in Tajikistan between the country's armed forces and Islamic militants.
Bordyuzha said all participants identified Afghanistan as a source of risk, and therefore agreed that CSTO member states should contribute to strengthening the Tajik-Afghan border.
Afghan expert Hayotulloh Kuhsor told RFE/RL he thinks the CSTO member states are trying to make Afghanistan the scapegoat for the inability to solve their own problems.
In recent months, several senior Russian officials have proposed redeploying Russian border guards along the Tajik-Afghan border which was under their control until the end of 2005.
On March 15, after meeting with EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Pierre Morel, the deputy commander of Tajikistan's border guard forces, General Sharaf Fayzulloev, said Tajik border guards are capable of defending the country's borders themselves.
The EU and United States have invested millions of dollars on strengthening the Tajik-Afghan border.
The final CSTO declaration from the Dushanbe meetings noted that illegal drug smuggling is fueling extremism in the region.