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International relations

Russia fortifies Central Asia military clout before US Afghan exit

Moscow plays up terrorism but experts see possible American bases as motivator

Joint Russian-Tajik drills near the Afghanistan border: Moscow has sought to strengthen its 201st military base in Tajikistan, its largest facility in Central Asia.   © Russian Defense Ministry/Getty Images

MOSCOW -- Russia is increasing military support for its Central Asian neighbors, with the U.S. deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan fast approaching.

Over the past month, Russia has held large-scale joint military exercises, signed new military cooperation agreements and moved to integrate its air defense system with its partners in Central Asia. Moscow says these moves are meant to help Central Asian governments defend themselves against terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan, but some experts contend that their real aim is to counter America's potential next moves in the region.

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