Turkmenistan has started moving heavy weapons, helicopters and other planes closer to its border with Afghanistan, and reservists are on alert in the capital, a further sign of concern spreading across Central Asia as Taliban fighters continue major offensives.
A senior official from a Turkmen security agency told RFE / RL that more troops from a military garrison near the town of Mary were being sent to reinforce the border guard units. Mary is about 400 kilometers north of Serhetabad, a major border crossing with Afghanistan.
The official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the additional forces sent to the border included officers as well as fighter jets and helicopters.
It is not known exactly how many units are sent to the border or how many planes are sent there.
Another online news site, Turkmen.News, also reported the transfer of heavy weapons to the Serhetabad area last week.
In the capital, Ashgabat, meanwhile, some reservists are being summoned to military recruiting posts and ordered to stay on alert for a possible rapid deployment, the official said. Orders are currently not national and are limited to Ashgabat, he said.
The tightly controlled and top secret Turkmen government has made no announcements of increased security. Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly warned average Turkmens against using virtual private networks, or VPNs, which are illegal but widely used to bypass government restrictions on the Internet.
In Mary, whose population is estimated at around 100,000, local authorities have started holding patriotic conferences for public service employees.
Municipal service workers in the city’s Margush District had to attend a one-hour meeting on July 8 after the workday ended. A participant told RFE / RL that people were not happy to be forced to attend.
âPeople were so tired. Everyone wanted to get home faster. It would be better if they gave their classes during working hours, not after work, or even better if they increased their wages. We cannot feed our children with empty words, âa worker told RFE / RL. He asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job.
Another worker also complained that he was forced to attend the meeting after working since 7 a.m. that morning.
âAll day long, under a blazing sun, we clean the streets, plant flowers, level the ground, mow the grass. We are thrown into the hardest work. Finishing work at 7 p.m., we barely get home. And listening to these conversations and lectures is an unnecessary concern for us. After work, we barely come home and fall asleep, not having time to eat a piece of bread with our children, âsaid the worker, who also asked to remain anonymous.
The worker said the conference included rhetoric about the country’s prosperity and how people should be loyal to the government.
Turkmenistan shares an 800-kilometer border with Afghanistan, where the security situation has deteriorated sharply as Taliban fighters advance to provincial centers and even some border posts.
Hundreds of Afghans, including local soldiers and police, have reportedly fled to other neighboring Central Asian countries, such as Tajikistan.
Tajik officials announced last week that they were sending an additional 20,000 troops to its border in response to the Taliban offensive. On July 5, the border guard service reported that more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers had entered Tajikistan in the previous 24 hours.
US President Joe Biden has pledged that the withdrawal of US forces will be completed by August 31. Since then, the Taliban have unleashed a swift offensive and now control about a third of the country’s 421 districts and district centers.
Earlier this month, US forces evacuated their largest base in Afghanistan at Bagram, north of Kabul.
The rapid withdrawal of US forces and the successes of the Taliban on the battlefield raise fears that the West-backed government in Kabul may collapse.