bne IntelliNews – Turkmenistan: As Taliban arrives at the gates, diplomats and army scramble

Turkmenistan appears to have wanted to keep its second Taliban visit a secret for five months. The Taliban had other ideas.

The problem is that the two sides in the Taliban-Turkmen consultation wanted different things. The first is eager to show that he is now an internationally respected interlocutor who can speak on behalf of Afghans. The latter tried and failed to establish composure against the background of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the southeast.

Issues on the Afghan border reached a climax on July 9th, when the Afghan city of Torgundi, just a short walk from Turkmenistan, came under Taliban control.

Although the Taliban’s progress has been great and rapid, the Turkmen are showing any signs of being caught by surprise that the fighters are already in the neighborhood. The fight was so close that the Amsterdam-based was on July 8th quoting residents of Serkhetabat, which is right on the road, say they can hear gunfire.

RSE / RL Turkmen Service, Azatlyk Radio, reports on 9 July that additional borders from the Maria-1 and Maria-2 bases, as well as from the provinces of Lebap, Dashoguz and the Balkans, as well as an unspecified number of combat helicopters and aircraft were located at the border.

The forces at Mary-2 Air Base are the best defense of Turkmenistan. The base that was he spoke once The United States was focused, had an elite paratrooper unit, and was visited by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in “quick readiness exercise”In May 2018.

Azatlik says political commissar-style agents have also been forced to take action by inflating the population to deliver patriotic lectures to weary and unperturbed listeners.

Following the spread of such reports, the Foreign Ministry in Ashgabat fired a experienced press release and condemned in particular the Russian television channel RBK for disseminating “false information in pursuit of a cheap sensation.” The statement quoted the Ministry of Defense as saying that all military units, personnel and equipment “remain at the place of permanent base”. The Foreign Ministry reminded readers of the unwavering bonds of love between the Afghan and Turkmen people.

It is not the government in Kabul that the Turkmen are trying to calm this disintegration, but the Taliban.

On July 11, a spokesman for the movement revealed on Twitter that a delegation led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of the Taliban’s political service in Qatar, had visited Turkmenistan to discuss “current political, economic and security issues.” The spokesman noted that it was the Turkmen who were the reason for the meeting with representatives of the Foreign Ministry in Ashgabat.

Unlike the Taliban era visited in FebruaryWhen he arrived with welcoming assurances that he would not head for a planned natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan, Turkmen state media turned a veil of silence over the meeting. Meanwhile, the Afghan military group is taking every opportunity these days to show that it considers itself a legitimate interlocutor. It was given red carpet treatment in Moscow on July 8, although it was considered an illegal extremist organization by the Russian government.

The bottom line is that Turkmenistan is clearly happy to work with the Taliban – a willingness shown by Uzbekistan and Tajikistanalso – that it realizes that there may be limited dividends that can only support the current government in Kabul.

This is just as good as Ashgabat has many other things on its plate. New traces of problems on the economic front arrived when Berdimuhamedov fired Merdan Ananurdiev from his work as chairman of the Central Bank on July 9. The president has previously grumbled about the lack of hard currency coming to Turkmenistan, and has even made covert allusions to the mana’s weakness. Although the manat is officially holding fast at 3.5 to the dollar, its black market rate is now closer up to 33.5.

“We must constantly take measures to increase the exchange rate of the national currency, as well as to regulate and strictly control operations involving foreign currencies,” he said. said in February, revealing essentially the fiction held by his own central bankers. “The central bank and other banks shall be guided by this requirement when processing import-related payments and transactions.”

At a government meeting on July 9, Berdymukhamedov complained that Turkmengaz’s gas monopoly, the national airline and the state insurance company had brought less hard currency so far this year than in 2020. The fact that Turkmengaz failed to bring bacon home is particularly worrying as gas is by far the country’s leading money generator. The chairman of the company, Batir Amanov, was duly reprimanded by the president.

Minister of Finance and Economy Muhammetgeldi Serdarov also received his “final warning” and a six-month deadline to rectify things. This is Serdarov’s second “last warning” from February.

However, Berdimuhamedov may feel that if you really want things to end, you need to turn to completely reliable lieutenants. And who is more reliable than his own son and supposed heir, Serdar? Amid a heavy wave of layoffs and rents, Berdimuhamedov Jr. was fired as chairman of the Supreme control chamber, a body that monitors government spending and appoints a deputy prime minister with a portfolio of economics, banking and relations with international financial institutions.

A lot is happening here.

Leaving the Supreme Audit Office means that Serdar no longer automatically sits on the National Security Council. He had never seemed so enthusiastic about the work he had done only since Februaryand take more time thinking of dogs than national security if the state media cover anything. The warming of Afghanistan will make defense planning work more attractive.

There is also a feeling that Serdar Berdimuhamedov has a dual function to stir as often as he does. One is to prepare him for the prospect of eventually running the entire show. Another is that he is probably perceived by his father as the best loyalist and more useful bearer of uncovered truths than the slave servants who fill the cabinet. What results he has achieved in the Supreme Chamber of Control, however, is not for the general world to know for sure, nor for anything to do in his new job.

The dimension of international financial institutions in Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s new report is also intriguing, given that similar ones to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are freed from believing official data produced by Turkmen statisticians (it is not clear whether they even provided such from 2019).

Not that this prevents these same institutions from giving money to Turkmenistan. The World Bank announced on July 9, that he cut a check for $ 20 million to fund something called the Turkmenistan COVID-19 response project. This obviously includes, among other things, “[upgrading] risk communication. “Ashgabat insists it has not registered a single case of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, effectively communicating to its own population that the risk is negligible. If nothing else, $ 20 million will give Ashgabat a little more capacity to financing dog statues with golden leaves,, swinging new airports into nothingness and giant white tents in the regions.

The state-run Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper did so last week announce that vaccination will now become mandatory for all people over the age of 18. The same report he claimed the country had the “necessary supplies” of vaccines, but did not develop in detail.

Akhal-Teke is a weekly column in Eurasianet that collects news and analysis from Turkmenistan.

This article originally appeared on Eurasianet here.

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