Russian-led Security Bloc To Hold Drills In Kyrgyzstan In September

As the situation in Afghanistan worsens, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has stated that it plans to hold military drills involving the deployment of thousands of troops in Kyrgyzstan, from the 1st to the 9th of September. The collapse of the Afghan government, and the Taliban’s rapid dominance of power, have increased pressure on the safety of neighbouring countries. The threat of security, the anticipated increase in migration, and the Taliban’s sphere of control in Central Asia have left neighbouring countries such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia, planning for crisis prevention. Following the recent Taliban takeover, according to Al Jazeera, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that it is important to avoid any “spread of radical Islam” into central Asia from Afghanistan. 

On the 26th of August 2021, the CSTO released a statement detailing the military objectives of the drills, “The main objectives of the training are to improve the practical skills of CSTO command and control bodies in the organization of combat operations and management of subordinate troops (forces), as well as to improve the cohesion of the units in carrying out tasks in the course a joint operation.”

The CSTO has agreed on the deployment of 5,000 military personnel from the Republic of Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and the Republic of Tajikistan. According to the results of the CSTO meeting, training will focus on “destroying illegal armed groups that have invaded the territory of a CSTO member State.” While military drills are set to start next month, the mobilization and preparation of forces have been a concern for countries in Central Asia for weeks now, specifically countries bordering Afghanistan. According to Caspian News, the President of Kazakhstan stated last week that, “In the context of the aggravation of the international situation, our power structures should be maximally mobilized… We see growing concern and anxiety in society about the situation in Afghanistan.”

Neighbouring allies have called for Russian military aid in the past week, to which Russia has responded with complete support in providing to member states of the CSTO. The head of Russia’s state arms exporter told the RIA news agency, “We are already working on several orders from countries in the region for the supply of Russian helicopters, firearms, and modern border protection systems.” 

The Taliban have released multiple statements assuring neighbours in Central Asia of safety, security, and peace, promising a change in leadership despite their history of violent rule in 1990. However, the international community, especially those in Central Asia, remains extremely skeptical of peaceful leadership. The Taliban pose a direct threat to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Republic of Kazakhstan, which may bring political instability and increased danger to the rest of Central Asia.

The main concern for neighbouring countries is maintaining security during an anticipated massive influx of refugees from Afghanistan. The deeper problem for Russia and its neighbours is ensuring that all refugees entering pose no threat to security, are not terrorists under the guise of refugees, and are truly seeking asylum. The Russian News Agency reported on a meeting which took place on August 22nd with the United Russia party members, where President Putin expressed fear of a refugee crisis emerging in Central Asia.

“Our Western, let’s say, partners, are persistently raising the issue of placing refugees in Central Asian countries before those receive visas from the United States or other countries… Do they think they can send them without visas to our neighbours, but refuse to receive them in their own countries without visas? What a humiliating approach to solving this issue is it?” Putin went on to explain how a threat to the security of the CSTO members is a threat to security in Russia. “They [countries in Central Asia] are in one way or another our closest partners and allies. We share common borders, but there are no visa restrictions. Imagine that refugees entered any of these countries. Who is among these refugees, how do we know?”

Ultimately, with drills set to start within the next two weeks, there is definitely a concern about the increase in mobilization and the impact it could have on Central Asia if retaliation from militants occurs. The CSTO has stated that the operation aims to “ensure the military security of the CSTO member States, including participation in repelling external military aggression and conducting joint counter-terrorism operations.” However, an escalation of chaos in central Asia could transpire if mobilization expands and agendas shift from maintaining peace. Therefore, neighbouring countries in Central Asia must commit to a process of crisis prevention, peacebuilding, and stabilization. For this to happen, neighbouring countries must focus all efforts on border control, and the secure movement of Afghan refugees. In doing so, the need for using military force will decrease, and the risk of increasing chaos in central Asia will decrease accordingly.