Dushanbe / AFP
Russia and fragile ex-Soviet ally Tajikistan have begun large-scale military drills close to the Central Asian stateâ€™s restless border with Afghanistan, a Tajik military official confirmed Tuesday.
A spokesman for Tajikistanâ€™s defence ministry said the drills involving around 50,000 Tajik troops and 2,000 Russian troops, including paratroopers flown in from Russia.
â€œThe manoeuvres involve around a thousand armoured vehicles, artillery, and 32 combat and transport aircraft,â€ spokesman Faridun Makhmadalizoda told AFP, adding that they would continue until the end of the week.
This is the first time troops from Russiaâ€™s Central Military District have been involved in exercises in Tajikistan, highlighting Moscowâ€™s growing unease over chaos in Afghanistanâ€™s northern provinces.
The other Russian troops engaged in the exercises are from Moscowâ€™s 201st military base in Tajikistan, the spokesman confirmed.
Last year a contingent of 2,500 troops from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a military bloc led by Russia and including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, also staged military exercises in the country.
Afghanistanâ€™s northern provinces have been rattled by militancy amid government infighting in Kabul and the drawdown of the US-led military presence. Skirmishes along the porous 1300-kilometre frontier Afghanistan shares with Tajikistan occur frequently.
Earlier this month the Tajik border service confirmed that one of its officers and a militant had been killed in a shootout after an armed group crossed into Tajikistan from Afghanistan.