Accessibility links

Breaking News

Last Line Of Defense Against The Taliban -- Qarqeen

Afghan civil defense commander Gurbandurdy (screen grab)
Afghan civil defense commander Gurbandurdy (screen grab)
White-bearded Gurbandurdy and his 120-man civil defense force have two enemies.

They also have two friends -- the Afghan and Turkmen governments -- who seem to have forgotten them.

They are preparing to make a last stand, but in their current situation, it seems only a matter of time before the Taliban get them, or nature does.

Gurbandurdy and his village militia live in the Qarqeen District of Afghanistan's Faryab Province. Their village is on the border of Turkmenistan. The enemy to the south, east and west is the Taliban and members of militant groups allied to the Taliban, who are well armed, sufficiently funded, and extending their area of influence in this part of northern Afghanistan.

The enemy to the north is the river that separates Afghanistan from Turkmenistan in this area -- the Amu-Darya.

The river is moving gradually southward. It is pushing the border further south, eating away precious agricultural land on its southern bank and chasing the inhabitants of villages, like Gurbandurdy’s village, into the desert.

RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, has been helping shed light on the situation just over the Turkmen border in Afghanistan.

Very little has been reported about this area. It's far from Kabul and Kandahar and not many foreign troops pass through this northwestern corner of Afghanistan.

Azatlyk obtained footage of Gurbandurdy and some of his fighters, one of whom would be around retirement age in many countries.

Gurbandurdy is not a young man himself and says in one video that he has been fighting for his country for nearly three decades, "under jihad and after."

The videos speak for themselves, unfortunately they are in Turkmen and we don’t have subtitles to go with them. So below is written text of what they say. The videos are all short: from 15 seconds to just over a minute.

Some necessary background information: Turkmenistan’s government has pledged to help in reinforcing the riverbank on the Afghan side of the Amu-Darya, something it has done in the past. Nurjan is one of the commanders of Gurbandurdy’s militia.


Most of the security posts on Afghan-Turkmen borders are ours. I am on good terms with Turkmenistan for a long time, I did not allow any infiltration during the period of jihad, or during the Junbish's time [when ethnic Uzbek commander Abdul Rashid Dostum was ruler of the town] and no threat will be posed to Turkmenistan.Godwilling everything is under control. Nothing has happened in the past, nothing will happen in the future. But Turkmenistan promised to build us a retaining wall. Since the Taliban arrived in the area of our village, Turkmenistan has stopped sending people and told us they would not send anymore. We ask them to help us.

Watch original video here


I am commander Gurbandurdy. I am commander of the Qarqeen district, I was the commander during jihad time, around 27 years ago. I continue to be the commander, because my people wanted me to be so. Groups like the Taliban started coming to our district, and killing our doctors and teachers.

Watch original video here


We took up arms to protect our village and people. Gurbandurdy is our commander. Five months ago, terrorists started coming to our village and we took up arms to protect our people. We ask Turkmenistan to return our land. The river is destroying our land. Villagers are moving to the desert. This is our biggest request to Turkmenistan -- that they do something about the river. Because by taking up arms we are also protecting Turkmenistan and therefore helping them. The biggest contribution Turkmenistan can make to us is to build a wall along the river. They [Turkmenistan] should not cheat people with this little help [in this small matter]. They should not be claiming they are helping us with these little things. If they want to do something, they should do something serious. This is our request to Turkmenistan and [President Gurbanguly] Berdymukhammedov.

Watch original video here

Old Man:

As you can see, at this age I am protecting the border with weapons in my hands. The river has destroyed us. We look for help from Turkmenistan.”

Watch original video here

-- Bruce Pannier

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.​

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


Blog Archive