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In military drills that ended on Tuesday roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, soldiers from Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan employed new Russian weaponry, flamethrowers, and surface-to-air missile launchers.

As Taliban terrorists overran parts of Afghanistan’s northern provinces directly next to Central Asia, Moscow and its Central Asian ex-Soviet allies launched two separate rounds of military drills along the Afghan border this month.

At the training grounds, Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo informed reporters that the drills were being undertaken with Afghanistan in mind. He described the situation in Afghanistan as “unpredictable.”

“This circumstance demands us to be watchful and preserve our battle preparedness,” said Shukhrat Khalmukhamedov, chief of the general staff of the Uzbek armed forces.

2,500 personnel, hundreds of armored vehicles, and 25 aircraft took part in the drills. The Russian forces involved were dispatched from a military camp in Tajikistan, which is Moscow’s largest outpost abroad. The showcased weaponry, according to Russian Central Military District Commander Alexander Lapin, will remain at the Tajik facility.

Residents huddled in their houses as Taliban insurgents tightened their grip on captured territory in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, while a pro-government commander promised to fight to the death to preserve Mazar-i-Sharif, the region’s largest city.

After a surprising spate of Taliban wins as US-led foreign forces pull out, President Ashraf Ghani called on regional strongmen to help his administration, while a UN official warned that the gains gained in human rights over the past 20 years were in risk of being obliterated.

For years, the north of the country was the most quiet, with only a small Taliban presence.

The militants appear to be planning to take the north, as well as the important border crossings in the north, west, and south, before closing in on Kabul. The Taliban, who are fighting to overthrow the US-backed government and reimpose strict Islamic law, rushed into Aibak on Monday with no opposition.

The government has moved forces from difficult-to-defend rural districts in order to concentrate on defending large population centers, while officials have urged Pakistan to put pressure on the Taliban to halt reinforcements and supplies from crossing the porous border. Pakistan denies having any ties to the Taliban.

Air attacks have been launched in support of government soldiers, although the US has stated that Afghan forces must protect their country.

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