KABUL: Turkmenistan has begun ramping up of its military presence along its borders with Afghanistan, moving an arsenal of heavy weaponry and aircrafts and helicopters, Turkmen officials were cited as saying on Monday.
A Turkmen security official has said that more troops are being sent from a military base near the town of Mary to bolster border units.
Mary is located about 400km north of Sarhadabad region, the main border crossing with Afghanistan.
The official, who was not allowed to speak to the media, added that officers, fighter jets and helicopters had been sent to the border.
The online news site Turkmen News also reported that heavy weapons had been sent to the Sarhadabad area last week. In the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, Turkmen reserve forces have been told to be ready to be sent to the border.
This is as Taliban’s second-in-command Abbas Stanekzai has traveled to Ashgabat.
A Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Naeem Wardak, has said that a high-ranking delegation led by Stanekzai arrived in Ashgabat on Sunday at the official invitation of Turkmenistan. Stanekzai has met with the Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister on Monday, he said, and discussed in detail political, economic and security issues.
It is noteworthy that a few days ago, a four-member delegation traveled to Moscow. The delegation met with Zamir Kabulov, Special Representative of the Russian President for Afghanistan.
The heavily controlled and highly secretive Turkmen government has said nothing about increasing security measures.
But the Afghan government says it is ready to stop any threats from Afghanistan to its neighbors.
“Afghan security and defense forces assure all Afghanistan neighbors that they are fully prepared to repel any threat to them anywhere, but the role of countries in the region and its neighbors are very important in the fight against terrorism,” said Dawakhan Minapal, head of the Afghan government’s information and media center.
Turkmenistan shares a 800-kilometer border with Afghanistan – where the security situation has deteriorated as the Taliban advance.
The Taliban have taken control of dozens of districts in recent weeks, mostly in northern Afghanistan.
The Taliban threat has worried Russia as well. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said last week that the Taliban controlled two-thirds of the Tajik-Afghan border, a claim Afghan government had not confirmed.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said they did not pose a threat to any of Afghanistan’s neighbors.
“We have assured all our neighbors, including Turkmenistan, that our forces approaching the borders will maintain the security of our country. We will also respect the territory of their countries and the border principles will be strictly observed,” he said.
Tajik border guards announced on July 5 that more than a thousand Afghan soldiers had fled into Tajikistan.
Then Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s national security adviser said all the soldiers had returned to the country.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon announced last week that an additional 20,000 troops would be deployed along his country’s border in response to Taliban attacks.