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Turkmens in Afghanistan bar Taliban from crossing border

With the appearance of Taliban detachments in northern Afghanistan, concern is growing on both sides of the Turkmen-Afghan border.

By Dzhumaguly Annayev


MARY, Turkmenistan – Ethnic Turkmens in northern Afghanistan are taking up arms to protect Turkmenistan from the Taliban.

Residents of Karkin, Faryab Province, stand ready to defend their homes and protect the border with Turkmenistan from encroachment by Taliban fighters, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)'s Turkmen service reported March 11.

The Karkin men are taking up arms to address the situation brought about by the emergence of Taliban militants in the region, Gurbandurdy, a former insurgent field commander who fought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989), told RFE/RL.

"They [the Taliban] arrived about six months ago and wanted to impose their ways here," he told RFE/RL. "But when they began kidnapping and killing innocent Karkin villagers and also making raids across the border, the elders asked me to form and command an armed resistance force."

Karkin hopes for flooding assistance in exchange for their work

Relations between the communities on both sides of the Amu Darya River, which serves as the border, are excellent, so Gurbandurdy's force protects not only Karkin but the nearby segment of border, other Turkmen-Afghans say. Gurbandurdy's heavily armed 120-man force is known to have beaten back several attempts by the Taliban to take over the border zone.

"We pushed the Taliban back from the village and from the border," Nurjan, one of the anti-Taliban fighters, said. "It's now much more peaceful here. But they could return in greater numbers, so we're hoping for practical assistance from Turkmenistan."

In exchange for their work safeguarding the Afghan-Turkmen border, men such as Nurjan are hoping for the Turkmen government to help them secure the border and to prevent periodic flooding by the Amu Darya River, which destroys homes, crops and livestock.

Turkmenistan was ready to help, but flood prevention work ceased when the Taliban began fomenting trouble in the region, he said.

"We'll keep the Taliban out of Turkmenistan, but we [hope for something] in return," he said.

It is not calm everywhere

The situation is relatively tranquil in zones where formal or informal forces like Gurbandurdy's are keeping the peace on the Afghan side, Turkmen State Border Service officer Batyr K. said.

In such places, nobody has fired on Turkmen border guards or tried to smuggle drugs, he said, adding that some clashes with militants and drug smugglers have occurred on the 744km-long frontier.

"Recent reports to Border Service HQ are full of border violations, whereas they used to be quite rare," he said.

However, some signs indicate that the situation on the Afghan border is not calm, residents of Mary Oblast say.

Recently, for example,Turkmen authorities have barred freight trains from operating on the railway from Serkhetabat (formerly Kushka) to Turgundi, Afghanistan, workers at the Mary railway station said.

"Nobody knows the reasons, but everybody thinks it was done to protect railway crews and property," railwayman Serdar Esenov said.

Aware but unafraid

Though Turkmen authorities don't typically discuss border clashes, local residents are fully aware of the issue.

Annameret Khakyyev, a resident of Taggabazar, Mary Oblast, told Central Asia Online that he and other local residents heard stories of a February 26 Taliban attack. Media reports have varied on the number of casualties, but at least three Turkmen border guards are thought to have been killed.

The population is generally confident that troops and anti-Taliban detachments will keep militants from crossing into Turkmenistan, Khakyyev said.

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Reader Comments

  • We will stand up for our homeland, peace-loving Turkmenistan, whose people offend no one. We will not allow anyone to destroy our peace and our people.

    March 19, 2015 @ 03:03:27PM алла
  • We won't give up our homeland!!! Turkmenistan is my beloved land! We won't shame you! We all love Turkmens and respect them!

    March 3, 2015 @ 07:03:13AM Рамазан
  • They need to create a buffer zone along the border and do everything they can to support Turkmens living in Afghanistan who are loyal to Turkmenistan. Supporting them in this context entails rendering military, financial, or other aid to ethnic Turkmens who are prepared to show resistance to the Taliban and any other extremist groups.

    February 15, 2015 @ 08:02:42AM Мердан
  • Not a single one of those beasts will dare covet my homeland. I will fight these freaks to the last breath. Anyone who encroaches on my people or my homeland will have to deal with all Turkmens in the world, and believe me, every orifice of their body will be beaten just like in the Seljuk Empire.

    February 9, 2015 @ 09:02:21PM Имам
  • We Turkmens are peaceful people. If our enemies go to war with our country, we will bite their heads off and bury them. Neither the Taliban or other nits will be allowed to march on our land. The Taliban will find their death in Turkmenistan.

    September 14, 2014 @ 08:09:05AM Режепбай
  • We Turkmen are a peaceful people but when someone - either the Taliban or anyone else, we don't care - we'll give them a kick in the backside. We're proud of our homeland.

    August 27, 2014 @ 04:08:30PM ата
  • Turkmenistan has its own armed forces capable of repelling the Taliban. And the President of Turkmenistan, he is truly the MASTER OF THE COUNTRY who closely follows all developments. Yes, they are doing their best for the sake of the people.

    July 27, 2014 @ 07:07:44AM владимир
  • turkmenistan

    March 29, 2014 @ 10:03:18AM Muhammet
  • Turkmens have been always victims in Afghanistan in comparison with other races. Nowadays Turkmens want to gather together but some parties do not want this to happen so Turkmen become victims in other provinces. Therefore, we requests the Turkmen from other countries to help Afghan Turkmen. So that this race can use his rights.

    March 25, 2014 @ 01:03:26AM میرزامحمد احمدی