Russia-led bloc in war games on Afghan border
Some 5,000 troops from member states of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Oct. 18 initiated military maneuvers code-named "Echelon-2021," Search-2021" and "Interaction-2021" in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan. More than half of the troops involved are Russian. Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, head of the CSTO joint staff, said in a statement: "We pay special attention to the Central Asian region. The situation around the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains the main source of instability. This is why we are holding three drills simultaneously for the first time as part of the joint training."
Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's special representative on Afghanistan, said that officials from Russia, China and Pakistan are to meet in Moscow this week to come up with a united position on the changing situation in Afghanistan. The United States has declined to attend after its special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, resigned following criticism over the hasty US military withdrawal from Kabul.
China is said to have taken over an old Soviet outpost in Tajikistan near the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan's eastern "panhandle," where the People's Liberation Army is conducting joint drills with Tajik forces and monitoring the situation on the border. (TASS, Reuters, AssumeTech, Xinhua, EFE, RFE/RL)