Russia to Optimize Military Presence in Central Asia - Defense Minister
16:33 24.07.2015(updated 16:48 24.07.2015)
The Russian Defense Ministry is discussing ways to optimize the operations of its military contingent in Central Asian nations over the next five years, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Russian army operates military bases in the former Soviet Republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
"The presence of the Russian Armed Forces in the Central Asian Republics is essential for strengthening regional stability, countering terrorism, preventing drug trafficking and arms smuggling," Shoigu said at a session of the Russian Defense Ministry.
He added that the ministry had prepared specific proposals for optimizing the composition and functioning of its troops in the region.
In May, a representative of the Russian General Staff told RIA Novosti that Russia had intensified the number of drills it carried out in Central Asia as the number and the significance of the potential threats coming from the region had grown.
The Central Asian region acts as a major transit route for drugs originating in Afghanistan, which are smuggled to Russia and Europe. Coupled with this is the recent intensification of Taliban activity on the Afghan-Tajik border.
The Islamic State militant group, which has occupied vast swathes of Syria and Iraq since 2014, has reportedly recruited hundreds of fighters from Central Asia.
Within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russia holds regular exercises in the region.
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