A joint military drill of Tajikistan and Russia that kicked off in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) on July 17 is under way.  The drill is being conducted at the “Jelondi” training ground, which is located at the altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level in GBAO’s Shugnan district, some 120 kilometers to the east of Khorog, Colonel Fridoun Mahmadalizoda, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense (MoD), told Asia-Plus in an interview.

According to him, the drill staff is led by Lieutenant-General Emomali Sobirzoda, the Chef of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Tajikistan. 

“The drill staff members include GBAO governor Shodikhon Jamshed, chiefs of GBAO power-wielding structures and representatives of the Russian military base deployed in Tajikistan,” Mahmadalizoda said.

The exercise involves servicemen of the Tajik Armed Forces, Russia military base, Tajik border guards and local reservists, totaling 10,000 people, as well as civilian support services and 100 armored vehicles and combat helicopters.

400 servicemen of the Russian military base with 80 armored vehicles were reportedly redeployed to Gorno Badakhshan for participation in the drill from Dushanbe. 

The exercise scenario is based on terrorist groups attempting to penetrate into Tajik territory from Afghanistan.

The purpose of the exercise is to rehearse mobilization of reservists as well as coordination and interaction in combat missions in mountains to annihilate terrorist groups that managed to penetrate into Tajik territory.  

Tajik Minister of Defense, Colonel-General Sherali Mirzo, is in overall command of the war game that will run through July 21.   

It is the first joint exercise for Tajik and Russian servicemen being held in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region. 

Recall, a joint four-day anti-terror drill for Tajik and Chinese servicemen took place in GBAO’s Ishkashim district on October 20-23, 2016.  The exercise involved about 10,000 servicemen reinforced with armored carriers, artillery and aircraft.

The Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region sits at the nexus of security problems including Uighur unrest in China’s Xinjiang region; Afghanistan’s war and opium trafficking; and jihadists’ potential return from Iraq and Syria to China, Central Asia or Russia.  

Meanwhile some experts consider that the ongoing war game is Russia’s possible response to China’s security interests in the region.