Turkmenistan showcases military power

By Dzhumaguly Annayev


MVD commandos in March in an unreported location devise ways to eliminate terrorists. [Screen shot by Dzhumaguly Annayev]

ASHGABAT -- Turkmen troops are demonstrating their combat abilities in a dangerous world.

The news comes as Turkmenistan eyes the fierce fighting between government troops and the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In August, the military held the Khazar-2016 exercises on the Caspian Sea. Every kind of unit in the Turkmen military participated, as well as special forces from the ministries of National Security and the Interior (MNB and MVD).

Those were the second such comprehensive exercises this year. On the night of March 26, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ordered a sudden state of alert for the military, police and intelligence services so that they could prove their ability to co-operate in an emergency.

The exercises in March were the largest in recent decades, a Defence Ministry source told Caravanserai. The source did not disclose the numbers of troops, tanks, aircraft or other forms of hardware in the exercise, citing military secrecy.

"We even used weapons and vehicles from our emergency stockpiles," he said.

A demanding exercise

"Over the course of several days, nobody got any normal sleep or rest, ranging from enlisted soldiers to generals," senior military officer Soltanmurad Sarybayev of Ashgabat told Caravanserai about the unannounced March drill.

In comparison, the Khazar-2016 exercises in August were not quite so comprehensive, Sarybayev said.

However, the August exercises demonstrated to foreign observers the capacities of Turkmen naval and border guard units, as well as those of other security and law enforcement agencies.

The exercises were meant to increase the military capacity of all units, ranging from regular army to special forces, the Turkmen media reported.

However, Ashgabat journalist Annaberdy Orazdurdyyev, who has contacts in security agencies, cited another purpose for the exercises.

The country's top leaders have noticed media coverage abroad "affirm[ing] that Turkmenistan's military is incapable of facing modern threats and challenges", Orazdurdyyev told Caravanserai.

Showing readiness to terrorists

Those threats include "ISIL ['Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'] militants who are entrenched in Afghanistan", he said.

To prevent dangerous actors like ISIL from misunderstanding the Turkmen army's readiness, "Turkmenistan holds tactical exercises often," Orazdurdyyev said.

Turkmenistan is striving to send a message to anyone who would try to seize its territory or destabilise it, Sarybayev agreed.

Turkmenistan shares more than 740km of border with war-stricken Afghanistan, he pointed out.

"Our troops will keep training ... as much as necessary," Turkmenbashi resident Annamammet Ashirmammetov told Caravanserai.. "We need to be able to fight off those who want to destroy our peaceful, constructive way of life."

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