U.S., Russian Military Officials Meet As Washington Seeks Central Asian Presence

Top U.S. and Russian military officials have held a “constructive” meeting to discuss issues of mutual interest and how to lower the risk of incidents during military exercises.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, met just north of the Finnish capital, Helsinki, on September 22 as Washington looks to shore up its intelligence gathering and sharing in Afghanistan now that it has no boots on the ground after withdrawing the remainder of its troops from the war-wracked country last month.

Russia has rejected the deployment of any U.S. troops in countries neighboring Afghanistan — namely the former Soviet republics in the region, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, or Tajikistan.

The two sides agreed not to disclose details of the talks, as has been the practice in previous meetings and calls, though Milley said afterward that “it was a productive meeting. When military leaders of great powers communicate, the world is a safer place.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement the “meeting was constructive” with issues of “mutual interest” addressed.

U.S. military and intelligence officials have warned that Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group could regenerate and pose a threat to the United States in one to two years.

To minimize the risk of that happening, Washington is looking for places to conduct counterterrorism surveillance and, if necessary, strikes in Afghanistan.

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