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Russian-led CSTO Launches More Counterterrorism Drills On Tajik-Afghan Border.

Members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have launched another joint counterterrorism training exercise in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan.

The exercise, which began on October 23, prepares for a scenario in which columns of vehicles carry militants across the border from Afghanistan into Tajikistan.

As part of the drills, two Soviet-era Aero L-39 Albatros trainer jets from Tajikistan's Air Force conducted air reconnaissance over the Kharb-Maidon training ground about 20 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan.

They spotted two mock columns of militants' vehicles and relayed coordinates to a border guard detachment from Tajikistan's State National Security Committee.

The Tajik border guards were deployed to intercept the mock enemy vehicles. CSTO special forces were also deployed in the drill, using grenade launchers and assault rifles.

It was the third in a series of CSTO drills near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan that was announced in August after the Taliban seized control of power across Afghanistan.

CSTO spokesman Vladimir Zainetdinov says a fourth CSTO drill is scheduled near the Tajik-Afghan border in November.

Altogether, the CSTO drills involve 4,000 troops and more than 500 military vehicles.

The drills are being conducted at the Kharb-Maidon and Momirak training grounds near the Tajik-Afghan border. They are under the direction of the Russian Central Military District commander, Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin.

The Taliban has sought to reassure Afghanistan's neighbors and Russia that it does not pose a threat to them after it gained control over most of Afghanistan’s territory, including the capital Kabul along with border crossings into Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

But Central Asians states bordering Afghanistan -- particularly Tajikistan -- have expressed concerns about the Taliban as a security threat and about the potential for tens of thousands of Afghan refugees to cross the border.

Russia has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It has vowed to defend Moscow's allies in Central Asia against any security threat from Afghanistan.

On August 17, Russia and Tajikistan launched a monthlong joint military drill near the Afghan border.

A week earlier, Russia completed joint military exercises with Tajik and Uzbek troops near the border with Afghanistan, which followed smaller Russian-Uzbek drills along the Uzbek-Afghan border.

In early September, several thousand troops from CSTO member states were also involved in border exercises in Kyrgyzstan.

CSTO members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax

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