September 18, 2014. By Joshua Kucera
Turkmenistan’s armed forces have entered the territory of Afghanistan in an apparent effort to drive back Taliban forces that had settled on the border between the two countries, Afghan residents have told the Turkmen service of RFE/RL.
The report is in Turkmen but has been translated into Russian by Alternative Turkmenistan News. It quotes residents of the Qaisar region of Afghanistan’s Faryab province saying that Turkmenistan soldiers crossed the border about three months ago and have dug trenches and built fences.
This would seem to be the latest escalation in an increasingly tense situation on the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border. Earlier, there had been reports of Turkmenistan border guards making incursions in Afghanistan, and the Turkmenistan armed forces carrying out exercises close to the border. But now they seem to be going even farther.
«The Turkmenistanis came here, dug trenches, set up wire fences,» one resident told RFE/RL. «No one asked them what they were doing here. The trenches they dug are four meters wide and five meters deep. Besides that, in the same place they are paving a road.»
And the Turkmenistan soldiers have apparently blocked access to the area where the villagers had previously grazed their animals. «Now we can’t use our pastures like before. We don’t have anywhere to graze our livestock, the animals are starving. Turkmenistan has taken what really belongs to us.»
Another resident echoed that complaint: «We had grazed our sheep on this land, we had grazed all our livestock there. Let them open a road for us and let us graze our livestock there again.»
The Taliban carried out an offensive in April that gave them control of much of the Qaisar region, reported the Afghanistan Analysts Network:
On 6 April, hundreds of Taliban stormed large parts of Qaisar district in Faryab, occupied 13 villages and swept Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) out of their check posts in the Shakh village area. It was the second large-scale action since the spring when Faryab provided the stage for one of the first massive spring offensive initiatives. … While earlier, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) had fought back for a few hours, this time, the local security forces retreated immediately, without attempting to fight. According to a provincial council member from Qaisar district, they were clearly outnumbered by the Taleban who were also better equipped with heavy and light weapons.
It’s curious that neither the Afghanistan government nor the international forces in Afghanistan have said anything about this apparent Turkmenistani incursion. Residents quoted by RFE/RL said they are appealing to the Afghanistan government to figure out what is going on and to try to regain access to their land. If the incursion has in fact happened, surely the Afghans and ISAF are aware of it, and perhaps are keeping quiet in tacit support of the Turkmenistan government moves. More as it develops…
Originally published on Eurasianet.org on September 18, 2014.