Tajikistan asks Russia-led bloc for help on Afghan border

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Tajikistan on Wednesday called on members of a Russian-led military bloc to help it deal with security challenges emerging from Afghanistan, hours after Moscow pledged to defend its regional allies affected by the unrest.

The security situation in Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated as foreign troops withdraw after 20 years, and hundreds of Afghan servicemen have crossed the border with Tajikistan in response to advances by the Taliban.

In an appeal to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes Russia and five other ex-Soviet states, a Tajik official said his country could not handle the instability at its border without external assistance.

"Given the current situation in the region, as well as the remoteness and mountainous terrain of some parts of the border with Afghanistan, dealing with this challenge on our own seems difficult," the RIA news agency quoted Hasan Sultonov, the Tajik representative at CSTO, as saying.

Sultonov's comments came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ready to use its military base in Tajikistan, one of its biggest abroad, to ensure the security of its allies in the region.

"We are closely watching what is happening in Afghanistan where the situation has a tendency to swiftly deteriorate including against the backdrop of the hasty exit of American and other NATO troops," Lavrov said.

"We will do everything we can, including using the capabilities of the Russian military base on Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan, to prevent any aggressive impulses towards our allies," Lavrov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday told Emomali Rakhmon, the president of Tajikistan, that Moscow would help the impoverished former Soviet republic contend with the fallout from NATO's exit from neighbouring Afghanistan if needed.

Rakhmon has ordered the mobilisation of 20,000 military reservists to bolster his country's border with Afghanistan after more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled across the frontier in response to Taliban militant advances.

(Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Alexander Marrow, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Peter Graff)

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