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CIS, NATO antiterrorist forces are complimentary, Russians say

CRR commander Major General Sergei Chernomordin categorically denied that the show of strength by the CIS forces represented in any way a response, much less a challenge, to the build-up of Western troops at Manas, Khabar TV reported on 13 April. He set out to explain instead how the two sets of troops could actually complement one another, saying that the U.S.-led international coalition's task was "destroying fighters in Afghanistan," while the CRRF under his command "are responsible for the stability of the situation in Central Asia." In fact, as Kazakh TV reported on 12 April, Tajikistan's Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov had already hinted at a complementary role for the CRRF by pointing out things it could do more successfully than NATO forces based in Central Asia had managed to achieve. Azimov noted in particular that America's campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda did nothing to stop the flow of drugs northward into Central Asia from Afghanistan, and that its operations there have failed to destroy a single narcotics depot, the television said. Preferably, Azimov hinted, drug interdiction should be a mission for CIS troops. (On 16 April, the Russian Federal Border Guard Service, responsible for protecting the Tajik-Afghan frontier, said that Russian guards have been attacked by smugglers over 10 times this year and have confiscated more than 350 kilograms of drugs, 85 percent of which was heroin, Interfax reported. The same agency said the previous day that the Tajik Interior Ministry's antidrug department made a public bonfire of 341 kilograms of drugs in the capital, Dushanbe.) Boris Mylnikov, the head of the CIS Counterterrorism Center in Bishkek, which was helping to coordinate the exercises, also suggested that his center's work could be complementary to that of the antiterrorist coalition, for example by exchanging information, Interfax said on 15 April. He added, however, that U.S. deployments in Central Asia served chiefly America's own interests rather than those of indigenous states, and opined the U.S. presence acted as a check to Chinese ambitions, according to ITAR-TASS.

(RFE/RL 18.iv.02)

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