MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Russian-led CSTO military bloc said on Thursday it was ready to mobilise its full capacity if the situation on Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan deteriorated as a Taliban delegation in Moscow told Russia it did not pose a threat to the region.
Foreign forces, including the United States, are withdrawing after almost 20 years of fighting, a move that has emboldened the Taliban to try to gain fresh territory in Afghanistan
That has prompted hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan and raised fears in Moscow and other capitals that Islamist extremists could infiltrate Central Asia, a region Russia views as its backyard.
The CSTO, the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) dominated by Russia, said on Thursday it was ready to use all its resources if necessary to contain a crisis on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the Interfax news agency reported.
The U.S. exit from Afghanistan is a headache for Moscow which fears spiralling fighting may push refugees into Central Asia, create a jihadist threat and even stir civil war in one ex-Soviet state, a former Russian diplomat and two analysts have told Reuters.
Russia operates its biggest foreign military base in Tajikistan close to the Afghan border and Moscow has already pledged to help Dushanbe if needed. Interfax cited the CSTO as saying that military contingents from other member countries were not yet needed in the area however.
The CSTO’s statement came as a Taliban delegation in Moscow held talks with Russian officials and sought to reassure their hosts that the group would not attack the Tajik border or use Afghanistan as a platform in future to launch attacks against Russia itself.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it had told the Taliban delegation that it was concerned by escalating tensions in northern Afghanistan and did not want any fighting to spill over into other countries.
The ministry said it had received assurances from the Taliban that the group would not violate other countries’ borders in the region and that the Taliban had guaranteed the safety of foreign diplomatic missions inside Afghanistan.
It cited the Taliban as saying it wanted a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan and had promised to respect human rights, including those of woman, “within the framework of Islamic norms and Afghan traditions.”
It said the Taliban had also pledged to fight against the threat posed by Islamic State in Afghanistan and to uproot drug production.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth/Moscow BuroEditing by Andrew Osborn)