Russian advisers will stay alongside Tajik border guards who have taken over protection of the nation's volatile border with Afghanistan from the Russians, Tajik president said Wednesday.
"We still need Russia's help, and we aren't ashamed to say that," Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov said in a speech to Russian and Tajik border guards officials. "Russian advisers will work in every border guards unit, offering their consultation and sharing experience."
Thousands of Russian guards have helped police the Tajik-Afghan frontier since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union in an effort to stem the flow of illegal drugs from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe.
Russian Border Guards chief Vladimir Pronichev said Wednesday that 161 Russian guards had died in combat on the Tajik-Afghan border since 1992. The guards confiscated 30 metric tons (33 tons) of drugs, including 11.5 metric tons (12.7 tons) of heroin.
Russia withdrew its guards earlier this year, but left some advisers behind. Russia will also maintain its 5,000-strong 201st Motorized Rifle Division in Tajikistan, after signing a deal in March allowing it to set up a permanent military base here. In addition to Tajikistan, Russia has opened a military base in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, that also hosts a U.S. military base for operations in Afghanistan.
Moscow initially welcomed the U.S. military deployment in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan for the war on terror after the Sept. 11 2001 terror attacks, but it later grew increasingly impatient about the American forces' presence in the strategic, resource-rich region.
A regional security body led by China and Russia called last summer for the United States and its allies to set a date to withdraw their forces from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Uzbekistan then gave the United States an 180-day eviction notice in July, AP reports.