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Will Russia Again Get Sucked Into Afghanistan As It Vows To Protect Central Asian Nations Under CSTO Pact?

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will immediately consider any attack on Tajikistan from the territory of Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.

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“If there is an attack on Tajikistan, this will be immediately considered by the CSTO. Representatives of the CSTO have visited the Tajik-Afghan border,” Lavrov said, addressing students of the Far Eastern Federal University.

He added that the Islamic State terrorist group was boosting its presence in the northern parts of Afghanistan, near the border with Russian allies.

Earlier, Russia held consultations within the CSTO to protect its partners in Central Asia from the terror threat coming from Afghanistan.

“We are already holding consultations both bilaterally and within the CSTO to reliably protect our neighbors in Central Asia from this direct and very serious threat. Of course, we also try to persuade political forces to stop dragging out the process of negotiations and to reach an agreement on forming a transitional government.

We are doing that as part of the so-called extended Troika – the Russian Federation, the United States, China, and Pakistan,” Lavrov said at a press conference after negotiations with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.

File Image: Main Cathedral CSTO Summit – Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Secretary-General of the CSTO, Stanislav Zas while addressing the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly in Dushanbe said that the situation in Afghanistan and neighboring Central Asian areas is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Terrorism and drug trafficking remain an acute problem in the Central Asian region, which incorporates half of CSTO member states. Therefore, the processes going on in Afghanistan affect CSTO collective security, so the organization is closely watching the situation, according to Zas.

“The probability of an early settlement of the situation in Afghanistan and its neighborhood remains low. One of the main questions is in what direction the developments will move there after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops — whether official Kabul and the Taliban movement will manage to agree on the restoration of peace and stability in the country and not let the Islamic State [terrorist organization, banned in Russia] and other extremist groups strengthen their positions,” the CSTO chief said.

Zas noted that the strengthening of the Tajik-Afghan frontiers, in accordance with the CSTO intergovernmental program, takes on exceptional importance now.

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

Taliban On Offensive

Recently, the Taliban took control of three more districts in northern and northeastern Afghan provinces as the confrontation with government forces continues, the radical movement’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid said.

The Taliban and the Afghan government started a new peace negotiation in Tehran earlier in the day.

“They captured the Wakhan district center of Badakhshan [province], the Qadis district center of Badghis, and Badpakh district center of Laghman last night and this morning,” Mujahid said.

During the fighting for Wakhan, the government forces had to retreat across the border to Tajikistan, the spokesman said. He told Sputnik that some of the high-ranking local officials and military pledged allegiance to the Taliban.

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“Khwaja Murad, the security chief of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province, and Khudaidad Tayeb, the district governor of Ab Kamari, as well as other senior commanders, including 200 army, policemen and local policemen joined the Mujahideen,” he said.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense, in turn, said that 261 Taliban militants were killed and more than 200 others were injured as a result of the army’s land and air operations.

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Violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan ever since international troops began to withdraw in May. A source in Dushanbe said that the Taliban were in control of over 70% of the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, Tajikistan said it has returned 280 Afghan soldiers back to Afghanistan after they crossed the border this week to escape the militant onslaught, a source in the Tajik national security agency told Sputnik.

Media reported earlier that 2,300 soldiers were sent back after fleeing across Afghanistan’s northern border.

“Only 280 Afghan service people and border guards who crossed into Tajikistan during hostilities have been sent back to Kabul. There are 1,300 Afghans [soldiers] in Tajikistan,” the source said.

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The soldiers’ retreat is the latest such incident. Hundreds have escaped to Tajikistan in the past weeks as the Taliban insurgency continues to make territorial gains in Afghanistan’s rural north.

US-Tajikistan Ties

Earlier, the United States and Tajikistan discussed Afghanistan, security and law enforcement issues during annual bilateral consultations, the Department of State had announced.

Washington hosted on Thursday a Tajik delegation, led by Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, for the 8th annual bilateral consultations. The US was represented by Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson.

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The consultations came amid the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan that prompted Tajikistan to put its armed forces stationed on the Afghan border on high alert.

“The United States delegation … reiterated the United States’ commitment to Tajikistan’s independence, sovereignty, and prosperity and cited our shared goal of a just and durable settlement in Afghanistan. The delegations discussed issues related to security and law enforcement, human rights, and energy and the economy,” the state department said late on Thursday.

The sides reaffirmed their commitment to jointly address regional security threats, cooperate in counterterrorism, and professionalize security services. They also touched upon efforts to fight human trafficking, promote religious freedom, regional connectivity initiatives, bilateral trade and investment.

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