Tajikistan calls on reservists to strengthen border as Afghan troops flee Taliban seek refuge
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan / KABUL, July 5 (Reuters) – The President of Tajikistan on Monday ordered the mobilization of 20,000 military reservists to strengthen the border with Afghanistan after more than 1,000 Afghan security officers crossed the border in response to the advances of the Taliban.
Sunday’s crossings highlighted the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where foreign troops are close to a full withdrawal after 20 years of war and with stalled peace negotiations.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon has launched a wave of international calls to discuss the situation with allies in the region, including his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin whose country has a strong military presence in Tajikistan.
Putin assured Rakhmon that Moscow will support the former Soviet republic to stabilize its border with Afghanistan if necessary, both directly and through a regional security bloc, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russia operates its largest military base abroad in the impoverished Central Asian country, where it parks tanks, helicopters and attack planes on the ground.
Tajikistan is considering setting up camps for potential refugees from Afghanistan, government sources told Reuters on Monday.
Hundreds of Afghan security forces have fled the rapid advances of the Taliban Islamists in the north. But Sunday’s retreats were the largest confirmed, coming just two days after the United States officially left its main Bagram air base in Afghanistan as part of a plan to withdraw all foreign troops from here. September 11th.
The Taliban took control of six key districts in the northern province of Badakhshan, which borders both Tajikistan and China, as a result of which 1,037 Afghan soldiers crossed the border with permission from Tajikistan, his report said. border guard service.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke by phone with Rakhmon on Sunday to discuss the developments.
“Particular attention has been paid to the escalating situation in areas of northern Afghanistan adjacent to Tajikistan,” the office of the President of Tajikistan said in a statement.
He added that Rakhmon expressed concern about the “forced passages” by members of the Afghan security forces.
Rakhmon also called his fellow Central Asian leaders Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan and held a meeting of the security council, his office said.
‘NOWHERE TO GO’
A senior Afghan official confirmed that there had been hundreds of crossings in Tajikistan but did not know the exact number.
“The Taliban cut off all roads and these people had no choice but to cross the border,” he told Reuters.
Last week, US forces left Bagram, ending the longest war in US history, in a deal with the Taliban, whom they have been fighting against since being ousted from power after the Al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. on the United States.
The air base was a vital military hub for the Soviet Union after its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Soviets withdrew in 1989.
The Taliban have halted their attacks on Western forces, but continue to target the Afghan government and security facilities as they achieve rapid territorial gains across the country.
Peace talks between the two parties remain inconclusive.
Zabihullah Atiq, a parliamentarian from Badakhshan, told Reuters that the Taliban had captured 26 of the 28 districts in the border province, three of which were handed over to insurgents without a fight.
Members of the Afghan security forces used various routes to flee, he said, but added that the Taliban captured dozens of people in Ishkashem district where Tajik border forces had blocked all passage.
Tajik officials said they let 152 people in from Ishkashem, but did not say if anyone was refused entry.
Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib, in Moscow on Monday for security talks, said government forces had not anticipated the Taliban offensive but would counterattack. Read more
Moscow has said the Russian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan is suspending operations for security reasons, TASS news agency reported.
Report by Nazarali Pirnazarov in Dushanbe, Kabul press room, Moscow office; Editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean and Nick Macfie
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