President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has threatened to dismiss Turkmenistan’s border police chiefs following the deaths of three more border guards at the Afghan frontier late last month.
Berdymukhamedov called the June 2 meeting of the State Security Council to hear an update from the country’s military and law-enforcement agencies, the state-run TDH news agency reports. The president then singled out border chief Myrad Yslamov and his deputy, Batyr Zeberenov, for a dressing down, noting their “improper” work and “shortcomings.”
“The state provides constant support to the modernization of the infrastructure of the Border Service, but despite this level [of support], the work of the State Border Service does not correspond to modern tasks,” TDH quoted Berdymukhamedov as saying.
At least twice this year, Afghanistan-based militants have killed Turkmen border guards along Turkmenistan’s previously calm southern frontier. RFE/RL reported last month that an attack on May 24 left three Turkmen border guards dead. The acting head of Afghanistan's Ghormach District, Asyl Khan, told RFE/RL that the Afghan intruders had seized weapons – two Kalashnikovs and a heavy-caliber machine gun – from the slain soldiers.
In February, an attack on a Turkmen border post also left three dead.
On May 29, Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov paid an unscheduled visit to Kabul, to discuss the situation on the border with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
RFE/RL – which has had great coverage of the escalating violence and general unease among communities on the Afghan side – notes that it is unclear who the attackers were. Some militant groups in northern Afghanistan are allied with the Taliban, the news service said, but are made up of ethnic Uzbeks and Turkmens. Others theories suggest the violence could be drug-related.
Berdymukhamedov often shakes up his officials after blasting “shortcomings” in their work, partially, observers believe, to keep anyone else from building a powerful patronage network. That effectively handicaps many officials, rendering them too terrified to make critical decisions.
So if the buck stops anywhere in Turkmenistan, it’s at the top. And the recent violence shows The Protector (“Arkadag”), as Berdymukhamedov likes to be called, is not living up to his name.