The new command of Russia’s border troops has announced an intention to beef up its Operational Group stationed in Turkmenistan. The announcement followed the recent visits to Central Asia by the troops’ commander, Colonel-General Konstantin Totsky, and his deputy, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Kruglik. The Operational Group’s increase would ostensibly reinforce “stability” on the Turkmen-Afghan border. Kruglik conceded that the situation on that border is stable today, but expressed concern that the Taliban may decide to destabilize it.
The Operational Group in Turkmenistan was created under bilateral agreements in 1993 and 1994. It consists of Russian officers and NCOs serving with Turkmen border troops down to company level (Russian agencies, October 26).
Turkmenistan, the first Central Asian country to face Taliban-controlled territory across the border, has more than once pointed to its conflict-free relations with the Talibs. That situation partly stems from a common interest in laying an export pipeline for Turkmen gas across Afghanistan and Pakistan–a project thwarted by Iranian and Russian military support for their Afghan clients. Moscow finds it useful to brandish a purported threat of aggression from the Taliban as a justification for reasserting its political and military presence in Central Asia.–VS
KAZHEGELDIN HIRES LAWYERS TO MONITOR ELECTIONS.