Russian troops on Turkmen-Afghan border: claim
Russian troops have allegedly been stationed in Turkmenistan along the Afghan border in the southern part of Turkmenistan’s eastern Lebap Province to block possible border incursions.
An unnamed border source told Radio Azatlyk that there had been “significantly strengthened security” due to warnings of possible Afghan militant strikes along the 744km frontier.
The country also shares a 1,148km border with Iran.
Turkmenistan’s airforce has reportedly increased daily reconnaissance flights along the border between Serhetabad and Koytendag.
Last month, Russia’s Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev (pictured) said more than 2,000 members of the “Islamic State of Khorasan” (ISK) were mobilising in northern Afghanistan ahead of a possible “incursion into Central Asia through Tajikistan and Turkmenistan”.
A Turkmen border source told Azatlyk that Russian and Turkmen troops had been operating in secret along the Afghan frontier for more than a year.
The secretive Turkmen government has never made any statement on the issue and does not discuss issues along the Afghan border.
No comment was made when three Turkmen troops were killed on the border in May 2014, according to reports from Afghanistan.
The dictatorship says it is keen to preserve its UN-recognised neutral status and refuses to acknowledge its external security challenges.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are the only two Central Asian states to have not joined Russia’s Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).
Russian border guards were deployed in Turkmenistan until 1999.
In the currently unenviable position of bordering Afghanistan and Iran, Turkmenistan is strict at enforcing compulsory military service.
Those who try to avoid being called up are often jailed. The Jehovah’s Witnesses said nine members of the church were serving prison sentences for claiming to be conscientious objectors.
Azamatyan Narkuliyev, 18, was sentenced to a year in jail last January for resisting being called up. After appealing for clemency on health grounds he was beaten by prison guards, according to the religious group.
Complicating relations with Russia is the Power of Siberia pipeline, which came online last month and is supplying China with Siberian natural gas.
Turkmenistan has dominated Chinese gas supplies since part of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline was completed in 2009. Turkmen gas exports to China rose from below 4 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2010 to over 33 bcm in 2019, according to BP, making it China’s largest source of natural gas and meeting 27 per cent of Chinese demand.
Beijing reportedly drives a hard bargain for the gas and it allegedly often paid with Chinese arms and gas infrastructure.
Russia President Vladimir Putin with the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. Picture credit: Kremlin