Russia deployed tanks near Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan on Tuesday as it prepares for military exercises next month, according to a Russian state media outlet.
T-72 tanks from the Russian military base in Tajikistan drove about 240 miles to the country’s Kharb-Maidon training area, less than 24 miles from the border with Afghanistan. The move comes before an exercise between Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan from August 5-10, TASS Russian News Agency reported, citing Russia’s central military district.
Russia’s actions follow major advances by the Taliban in Afghanistan as the Biden administration aims to withdraw US troops from the country by the end of August.
The withdrawal from America’s longest war is more than 95 percent complete, according to the latest figures released Tuesday by the US Central Command.
But the departure of US troops, who have been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly two decades, has encouraged the Taliban to quickly take back about half of the country’s districts.
The Taliban claimed earlier this month to control 85 percent of Afghan territory, including several Afghan border crossings with countries such as Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Russia now fears that thousands of refugees could flee to several of its Central Asian partner countries, destabilizing its military hold on the region.
During the Moscow deployment, the T-72 crews practiced “providing combat security for military columns, overcoming fictitiously contaminated terrain sections, repelling enemy subversive and reconnaissance groups, and air strikes,” TASS reported.
After the tanks arrived at range, “crews began to establish their positions and provide cover for combat vehicles,” the statement added.
Russia also said on Tuesday it would conduct exercises with Uzbek troops in southern Uzbekistan from July 30 to August 10.