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Hundreds of Afghans flee to Tajikistan as Taliban advances

Published by The Nation on Thu, 15 Jul 2021

Tajikistan has said that almost 350 refugees from Afghanistan had crossed into the Central Asian country, fleeing sweeping gains by Taliban fighters as foreign forces withdraw.Border guards in the ex-Soviet country said yesterday those fleeing included 177 minors, and that two babies had died during the journey to the mountainous and impoverished country.The Talibans offensive has seen a stream of Afghans make their way across the border. Earlier this months more than 1,000 government troops fled to Tajikistan after the fighters seized a border crossing between the countries.The militia in recent weeks has brought huge swathes of Afghanistan under its control as foreign troops withdraw, including the countrys main Shir Khan Bandar border crossing with Tajikistan.The border guards said the refugees, who included some 64 boys and 113 girls, crossed from the Badakhshan province, bringing with them herds of livestock.Tajikistan has even considered setting up camps for Afghan refugees, Reuters reported earlier this month.Taliban now control or at least have driven Afghan govt security forces from three major and multiple minor border crossings (from Kunduz into Tajikistan; from Herat into Iran (and Turkmenistan); now Kandahar into Pakistan).Moscow, an important power broker in the region was closely watching the offensive, concerned about the security of countries in ex-Soviet Central Asia, where it maintains military bases.Yesterday, about 1,000 troops at Russias 201st military base in Tajikistans capital Dushanbe took part in drills, Russian news agency Interfax reported.The agency cited a statement by Russias Central Military District as saying the exercises were meant for unit commanders and combat chiefs to ready for combat operations in a dynamically changing situation.The 201st base is one of Russias most important foreign bases and has the aim of helping maintain stability in Central Asia and providing support for Tajik troops.
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