Friday, December 3, 2021

Tajikistan calls up reservists to bolster border as Afghan troops flee Taliban

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DUSHANBE: Tajikistan’s president on Monday ordered the mobilisation 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 advances.

The crossings on Sunday underscored the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where foreign troops near a complete withdrawal after 20 years of war and with peace negotiations stalled.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon made a flurry of international calls to discuss the situation with allies in the region, including Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin whose country has a big military presence in Tajikistan.

Putin assured Rakhmon that Moscow would support the former Soviet republic to stabilise its border with Afghanistan if needed, both directly and through a regional security bloc, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Tajikistan is looking into setting up camps for potential refugees from Afghanistan, government sources told Reuters earlier on Monday.

Hundreds of Afghan security force members have fled swift Taliban advances in the north. But Sunday’s retreats were the largest confirmed, coming just two days after the United States officially vacated its main Bagram air base in Afghanistan as part of a plan to withdraw all foreign troops by Sept. 11.

The Taliban took over six key districts in the northern province of Badakhshan, which borders both Tajikistan and China, following which 1,037 Afghan servicemen fled across the border with Tajikistan’s permission, its border guard service said.

On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke to Rakhmon by phone to discuss the developments.

Read more: US forces leave Bagram base in Afghanistan after two decades

“Special attention was paid to the escalation of the situation in Afghanistan’s northern areas adjacent to Tajikistan,” the Tajik president’s office said in a statement.

It added that Rakhmon expressed concern about “forced crossings” by members of the Afghan security forces.

A senior Afghan official confirmed there had been hundreds of crossings into Tajikistan but did not know the exact number.

“The Taliban cut off all the roads and these people had nowhere to go but to cross the border,” he told Reuters.

Last week, U.S. forces vacated Bagram, bringing an effective end to the longest war in U.S. history, as part of an understanding with the Taliban, against whom it has fought since ousting them from power after Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

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