Uzbekistan keeps sharp eye on Afghan border

By Maksim Yeniseyev

Uzbekistani border guard vessels ply the Amu Darya River, which marks the Uzbekistani-Afghan border, in the autumn of 2015. [Maksim Yeniseyev]

Uzbekistani border guard vessels ply the Amu Darya River, which marks the Uzbekistani-Afghan border, in the autumn of 2015. [Maksim Yeniseyev]

TASHKENT --Uzbekistan, mindful of the turmoil in neighbouring Afghanistan, is keeping a sharp eye on the shared border and periodically nabbing drug smugglers, officials say.

The same reception awaits any extremists who would try to sneak into Uzbekistan.

Drug smugglers thwarted

"In September, two Afghans were arrested and convicted of ... trying to cross the Uzbekistani border illegally," Uzbekistani general prosecutor's office spokesman Arif Atajanov told Caravanserai.

One of them, Mamatkul Mamatnazar-ugli of Balkh Province, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for trying to bring in "3.3kg of opium ... by crossing the Amu Darya River on a raft", Atajanov said.

The other Afghan defendant, Hudoikul Jabbor of Jawzjan Province, drew a 17-year sentence for "trying to bring 5kg of opium across the Amu Darya", Atajanov added.

In 2015, Uzbekistani forces seized more than 2.5 tonnes of drugs, including 882kg of opium, according to the government.

So far this year, they have regularly nabbed illegal border crossers like the two Afghan drug traffickers. In July, they "detained 129 illegal crossers on all segments of the border", the State Committee for Border Protection said in a statement released September 16.

Close Uzbekistani-Afghan ties

Uzbekistan's dedication to border security and to regional security has not gone unnoticed in Afghanistan. When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attended Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov's September 3 funeral in Samarkand, he praised Karimov's commitment to "restoring peace and calm in Afghanistan", according to the Uzbekistan National News Agency.

Back in July 2015, Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar helped cement the countries' security co-operation by making a three-day visit to Uzbekistan.

Atmar and Uzbekistani officials agreed on "strengthening co-operation in protecting the border", the Afghan embassy in Tashkent said in a statement at the time. Their topics of discussion included the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

Combat perilously near Uzbekistani border

As Uzbekistani troops, both on the ground and on the Amu Darya River, work to keep Afghan-based terrorists from exporting their hate, they periodically have sharp reminders of what is going on in Afghanistan.

On the night of May 2, Afghan border guards in Kaldar District, Balkh Province, exchanged fire with militants. The district includes the Afghan end of the only bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

"The troops repulsed the attacks and suffered no casualties," Afghan Gen. Mir Naim Haidari said on Afghan TV May 5.

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