MOSCOW (Dispatches) – Russian military helicopters based in Tajikistan fired air-to-surface missiles during a training exercise on Tuesday as Moscow said its forces in the Central Asian nation were fully equipped to help secure the border with Afghanistan.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon on Monday ordered the mobilization of 20,000 military reservists to bolster the border with Afghanistan after more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled across the frontier in response to Taliban militant advances.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Rakhmon on Monday that Moscow would help the former Soviet republic contend with the fallout from NATO’s exit from neighboring Afghanistan if necessary.
Russia, which operates one of its largest military bases abroad in Tajikistan equipped with tanks, helicopters, drones and ground attack aircraft, would help stabilize the border with Afghanistan if needed, both directly and through a regional security bloc, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko repeated that pledge on Monday and was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying it appeared that the Taliban was now in control of most of the border on the Afghan side.
Afghanistan’s national security adviser said on Tuesday Afghan security personnel who fled into Tajikistan are being brought back to rejoin the fight against Taliban militants, adding some 2,300 who abandoned positions across the country had returned to service.
“Those that went to Tajikistan are coming back and are once again going to be in the service of the people and in the defense of Faizabad,” National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said in a news briefing.
Faizabad is the capital of the northern province of Badakhshan, which borders Tajikistan, from where the Afghan servicemen had fled on Sunday after the Taliban made rapid territorial gains.
Militants have seized 26 of the province’s 28 districts, according to a local parliamentarian – three of them without a fight.
In another development, thirty-six Taliban militants were killed and 21 militants wounded in embattled Kunduz city, capital of northern Afghan province of Kunduz on Monday, the country’s Ministry of Defense confirmed on Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement that Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and Afghan Special Operations Forces targeted a Taliban aggregation in Sah Darak and Sahsad Famely localities, leaving the above casualties on the side of the militants.
The militants tried to attack ANDSF positions, the statement said, adding amount of Taliban militants’ weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.