Russia has ramped up its military base in Tajikistan -- near the border with Afghanistan -- as Taliban activity in Afghanistan surged over the past several months, Reuters reported. Russia's decision Wednesday to add multiple aircraft to its base comes after Afghan forces and their allies struggled to retake the northern city of Kunduz, which was taken over last week by the Taliban.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, met Tuesday in Sochi, Russia, at Putin's summer residence to discuss Russia's enhanced presence in the region. Rahmon allegedly told Putin that he was concerned with the Taliban's growing presence near his nation's borders and welcomed Russian support.
The Russian Defense Ministry subsequently deployed several Mi-24P attack helicopters Wednesday to its Tajik airbase, Interfax news quoted the defense ministry as saying. Frud Bezhan, a journalist covering Afghanistan from Kabul confirmed the deployment Wednesday via his verified Twitter account.
— Frud Bezhan (@FrudBezhan) October 7, 2015
Tajikistan and Russia are both part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance that also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus, with Afghanistan as an observer state. This treaty, along with an agreement from Rahmon, is what has given Russia the authority to expand its presence in neighboring Tajikistan, Kremlin spokespeople said.
"The current Russian [military] presence in Tajikistan is in compliance with international law and bilateral agreements. It is intended to ensure stability and security in this truly tense region," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday following the meeting between Putin and Rahmon, as reported by Russian state news agency Sputnik International.
News of Russia's deployment came as Taliban forces stepped up their offensive in Kunduz, launching hit-and-run attacks using motorbikes on Afghan forces, Reuters reported Tuesday. Despite being outnumbered by Afghan forces, the Taliban has maintained its grip on the northern Afghan city.