More than 300 Afghan soldiers have crossed into Tajikistan as the Taliban captured more territory in northern Afghanistan, the Tajik Border Service said on July 3.
The retreat is the third time in two weeks that Afghan soldiers have fled into Tajikistan, after the militants took control of several border areas and seized Afghanistan's main border crossing with Tajikistan in June.
The Tajik Border Service said the situation became "complicated" after several villages and a border post in the northwestern part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province fell to the Taliban, forcing more than 300 Afghan soldiers to flee into Tajikistan's Shamsiddin Shohin region.
The Afghan soldiers were allowed to enter Tajikistan based on "humanism and good neighborliness," according to a statement.
The Taliban have taken control of dozens of districts from government forces in recent weeks as U.S.-led international forces withdraw from Afghanistan, raising concerns that the Western-backed government in Kabul and Afghan security forces may collapse.
The Taliban sweep across northern Afghanistan has put several districts bordering Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the militants' hands, presenting a possible security threat to the two Central Asian countries.
Tajik officials are preparing for a possible influx of refugees, while Uzbekistan last month announced military drills along the border.
The head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance that includes Tajikistan, told reporters on July 3 that there is growing concern about the situation and additional support to "fortify the Tajik-Afghan border" may be needed.
"There is clear understanding of the need to provide assistance to Tajikistan in ensuring the security of the Tajik-Afghan border," CSTO Secretary-General Stanislav Zas said, days after he met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon about the situation.
Russia has a military base in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic.
As U.S. forces exit Afghanistan, Washington is also looking for strategic Central Asian partners.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Washington with the top diplomats of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on July 1, with Afghanistan high on the agenda.
In recent weeks, U.S. media have suggested that American officials are looking to reposition some forces in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for "over-the-horizon" operations to keep track of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda given the two countries' proximity to Afghanistan.
In addition, U.S. media reports that Washington is asking Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to temporarily house some 9,000 Afghans who worked with the U.S.-led international forces in Afghanistan, pending approval of their permanent residency visas to be relocated to the United States or European allies for their safety.