Date: 6 June 2017
Demonstration of Power in Central Asia
At the end of May/beginning of June, Russia and its allies held joint anti-terrorism drills near the Afghan border. On one hand, they demonstrated the mobility of the Russian army (air transport and the use of Iskander systems) and, on the other hand, they are a signal of Uzbekistan establishing closer ties with Moscow.
Russia announced the first launch of the Iskander-M ballistic missile taking place outside of its territory. On June 1, an Iskander missile hit a simulated terrorist camp, located some 15 km from the Tajik-Afghan border. During the drills, the Uragan rocket systems were also used.
The Dushanbe Anti-terror 2017 drills took place between May 30 and June 1. They were organized by the Antiterrorism Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States. A spokesman of Tajik Defense Ministry assured that the drills were being held under general supervision of Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security (KGB’s successor in the Republic). A total of 4,500 of military personnel from Tajikistan, Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan took part in the maneuvers. Moscow sent 2,000 soldiers as well as 30 planes and helicopters.
About 7,000 Russian troops are stationed in Tajikistan at three facilities that formally are a part of a single Russian war base. The Iskander-M systems were transported by An-124 Ruslan transport aircrafts to Tajikistan from the missile brigade stationed in Totskoye (Central Military District). Also Su-24M fencer bombers from the Shagol military base in the Chelyabinsk oblast and Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters from Novosibirsk were sent on drills. Russia had earlier sent Iskanders to Syria and Armenia, but in Tajikistan they were used outside of Russia for the first time. They were used to demonstrate that Russia is able to transport advanced heavy weapons by air to Central Asia, close to Afghanistan.
Usually, such drills took place under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military pact formed under Russian leadership by some of former Soviet republics. This time, however, the undertaking was formally organized by the Antiterrorism Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Center has been functioning since 2000, but this is the first military exercise it has organized. Almost all the states involved in the drills in Tajikistan are members of CSTO, with a single exception: Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan left CSTO in 2012, but it is still a member of the Antiterrorist Center of CIS. The Uzbeks, moreover, had participated in the command exercise that preceded the drills in Tajikistan. It seems that Moscow has decided to change the formal organizer of the drills to be able to involve Uzbekistan. The same Uzbekistan that not long ago was at the edge of war with Tajikistan. However, after the death of Islam Karimov, the new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev is changing the foreign policy, ending the self-isolation and abandoning the anti-Russian attitude, typical of his predecessor.
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