(PatriotWise.com)- China’s national defense ministry announced last Thursday that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would be conducting a joint military drill with the Russian armed forces in northern China this month.
The “Zapad/Interaction 2021” drill is expected to take place at a PLA combined-arms tactical training base in Qingtongxia City in China’s Ningxia region from early to mid-August. As part of the drill, Russian and Chinese soldiers will establish a “joint command.” More than ten thousand troops will be dispatched, along with various types of aircraft, artillery and armored equipment.
According to PLA Senior Colonel Wu Qian, this joint military drill, ostensibly to “combat terrorist forces” and maintain peace and security in the region of Central Asia, shows a “new era” of “comprehensive strategic partnership” between Moscow and Beijing.
According to the state-run Global Times, the aim of this joint-military drill is for China and Russia to safeguard the security and stability of Central Asia as the US “irresponsibly withdraws troops from Afghanistan.”
In other words, two of America’s adversaries plan to fill the void left behind when the US leaves Afghanistan.
It is without question that the security situation in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating with the withdrawal of US and NATO ally forces. In July, the Taliban claimed that its fighters were now in control of 85 percent of the country. The violent campaigns launched by the Taliban have left civilians fleeing toward Afghanistan’s northeastern borders with Central Asia – including Tajikistan.
In early July, Tajikistan asked the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization for assistance in securing its 843-mile border with Afghanistan – two thirds of which is now under Taliban control. The Tajik government is also providing Afghan refugees with food and shelter, and expects even more to cross the border once the US withdrawal is complete.
According to a July 8 Reuters report, the Taliban had already overrun areas of Afghanistan that border five countries — Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan.
Last week, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, in Tajikistan as the two attended a meeting for defense ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states. Wei and Shoigu, citing the changing situation in Afghanistan as an example of the importance of safeguarding Central Asia’s security and stability.