All eyes are on Russia's expanding military operation in Syria, but it is not the only place where President Vladimir Putin appears to be expecting trouble from terrorists, NBC News reported.
Russia last week sent gunships to its biggest overseas military base — which is located in the ex-Soviet state of Tajikistan, close to the Afghanistan border.
The boost in firepower, along with the Taliban's recent advances in Afghanistan, has stoked fears that Central Asia — an impoverished and predominantly Muslim region — may become a second front for jihad.
"The situation there [in Afghanistan] is close to critical," Putin said Friday at a meeting with Central Asian leaders near Moscow, according to the Kremlin's website. "Various terrorists are gaining influence and don't hide their plans for further expansion."
Russia has a painful track record in Afghanistan. The decade-long Afghan war in the 1980s cost Moscow 15,000 lives and sped up the collapse of the Soviet economy — all without accomplishing the goal of propping up Afghanistan's then-Communist government.