Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 8

The military exercise “Southern Shield of the Commonwealth-2000” entered its active phase on March 28 in Tajikistan. Armor, motor-rifle, paratroop, border troops and air defense units as well as general staff groups of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan participate in the joint exercise on Tajik territory until April 4. Uzbek military units are included in the exercise, but are performing their assigned role on Uzbek territory, in accordance with President Islam Karimov’s policy of keeping a relative distance from multilateral undertakings in the CIS and Central Asia. The General Staffs of Belarus and Armenia are represented by “operational groups” of officers.

Commanded by Lieutenant-General Leonid Maltsev, deputy chief of the CIS Staff for the Coordination of Military Cooperation, the exercise is being supervised from a joint headquarters in Dushanbe. The main scene of action is the Tiger’s Gully training range in southwestern Tajikistan’s Shartuz district, near the point where the Tajik, Uzbek and Afghan borders intersect. The range belongs to Russia’s 201st motor-rifle division, which is stationed in Tajikistan and provides the bulk of the Russian troops involved in the joint exercise.

As part of the joint exercise, Uzbek units are conducting their own practice near Termez, a military stronghold on the Uzbek-Afghan border. The scenario envisages cross-border incursions into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by Islamic insurgents from bases in Afghanistan. The exercise, billed as “antiterrorist,” rehearses joint operations to contain and repel the incursions, and will culminate in a mock “annihilation battle” with live fire.