HOHHOT , China, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Led by the Chinese military, members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization ended a series of large anti-terrorism drills involving 7,000 troops.
The SCO, which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, conducted joint exercises -- the largest since the bloc was founded in 2001 -- near the Russian border in China's Inner Mongolia region. Chinese state media said an objective was to practice defeating an internal terrorist organization supported by outside terror groups. The exercises involved use of tanks, fighter jets, air defense missiles and drones.
China regards terrorism and religious extremism as a growing threat, particularly in its western Xinjiang region. The drills were an opportunity to practice, and highlight, its capabilities.
Although the SCO is not strictly a military alliance, its security component is being carefully watched by the United States, especially as the U.S. plans to withdraw from Afghanistan.
"The SCO almost from its outset adopted the Chinese normative framework of combating the three evils - terrorism, separatism and extremism and that became part of the SCO's mission," commented Columbia University Central Asia analyst Alexander Cooley.