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Russia Says Army Should Be Strengthened In 'Outpost' Tajikistan

DUSHANBE -- A senior Russian military official says Moscow wants to strengthen the Tajik army as "an outpost of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Central Asia."

Talking to journalists after meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on January 28, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the withdrawal of most Western combat troops from neighboring Afghanistan last year makes it particularly important to bolster Tajikistan's military.

He did not give details.

The CSTO is a security alliance comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan -- the only member that borders Afghanistan.

Russian officials have voiced concern the reduction in U.S. and NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan may increase the threat of militant violence faced by Central Asia and Russia.

Some 7,000 military personnel are stationed in Tajikistan under the jurisdiction of the 201st base, Russia's largest non-naval military facility outside the country.

With reporting by and Interfax

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