Turkmenistan is fuming at suggestions that there has been any unrest along its border with Afghanistan.
The specific target of Ashgabat’s irritation on October 15 was Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who alluded in passing during a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to what he see as the mounting threat posed by Islamist extremism coming out of Afghanistan.
“We know about incidents on the border with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. We need to create an ‘Islam against terrorism’ forum,” Nazarbayev was reported to have said by Izvestia newspaper.
The very mention of Turkmenistan was enough to raise the hackles of the Foreign Ministry in Ashgabat.
“The Turkmen side expresses its profound concern and bewilderment in relation to this untrue statement by the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan about the situation on the state border of Turkmenistan,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Turkmen government seems particularly stung that the source of what it characterizes as idle speculation has come from no less a source than an ostensibly cordial neighbor.
“On the basis of the traditionally brotherly relations between our nations, we hope that the Kazakh government may in future adhere to more objective information when assessing the situation,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Ashgabat’s indignation could in turn provoke bewilderment among observers of the unfolding security situation in the Afghan provinces along Turkmenistan’s border.
There can be no doubt Afghanistan is weighing heavy on the mind of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. It was a major topic of conversation on October 8, during his visit to his counterpart in Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov.
Karimov discreetly avoided mention of any flashpoints near Turkmenistan, however, limiting himself to expressions of concern about the “latest events around the Afghan town of Kunduz,” which he said cannot but cause concern in neighboring countries.
For what it’s worth though, there is a greater distance between Kunduz and the Tajik border, as the crow flies, than between the Turkmen border and the western Afghan city of Maymana, which came under a confirmed, mass onslaught from hundreds of Taliban fighters in early October.
It is those kinds of reports that have prompted suspicions that Turkmenistan is scrambling to ensure none of this unrest spills over the border.
For now though, Ashgabat is playing it cool in public.