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Russia-Led CSTO Starts Military Drills In Kyrgyzstan Due To Situation In Afghanistan

Russian and Kyrgyz troops take part in a military drill at the Edelweiss military training ground. (file photo)
Russian and Kyrgyz troops take part in a military drill at the Edelweiss military training ground. (file photo)

The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has started three days of military exercises in Kyrgyzstan it says are needed in response to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan.

Russia's Central Military District's press service said on September 7 that military units from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, as well as operative groups of the CSTO's United Staff and Secretariat, started the Rubezh (Frontier) 2021 maneuvers on Kyrgyzstan's Edelveis training field. Tajik troops were originally scheduled to take part as well, but withdrew at the last moment for unspecified reasons, Kyrgyz Deputy Defense Minister Nurlan Kiresheev said.

The exercises will focus on blocking and neutralizing illegal armed groups that unlawfully enter a CSTO member state's territory, the press service said.

Central Asians states bordering Afghanistan are concerned about security threats emanating from the war-torn country and the potential for tens of thousands of refugees to pour over the border.

The Taliban has sought to reassure neighboring countries and Russia that it poses no threat since gaining control over Afghanistan last month.

Russian military forces are represented at the maneuvers by the mountainous motorized rifle brigade from the Siberian region of Tyva and personnel from Russia's military base in Kyrgyzstan's city of Kant.

In all, about 500 Russian troops and 120 units of military equipment, including aircraft, are taking part in the exercises.

In late August, CSTO spokesman Vladimir Zainetdinov said three more sets of military maneuvers will be held close to the Tajik-Afghan border in October, with a fourth scheduled for November.

CSTO members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

The Taliban has pledged to rule differently than during its brutal regime of the 1990s that saw women confined to their homes, most entertainment banned, and punishments including stoning and public executions.

But its promises are being treated with skepticism by many Afghans and governments around the world, including Central Asia.

Last month, Russia held two separate joint military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan near the Afghan border.

Russia, which has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, has vowed to defend Moscow's allies in Central Asia against any security threat from Afghanistan.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz service, Interfax, and TASS
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