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Turkmenistan - Army

Of the 108,000 uniformed soldiers and officers and 300 units of the former Soviet armed forces that were in Turkmenistan in April 1992, nearly 50,000 personnel and thirty units were withdrawn or disbanded within the following year. By 1993 the republic's armed forces comprised around 34,000 active-duty personnel attached primarily to the army and air force. At that point, the reduced force operated 200 military units while seventy remained under Russian control. Turned over to Turkmenistan's command were one army corps directorate, two combined arms units stationed at Gushgy and Gyzylarbat, several air defense and air force aviation units, technical support and logistical units, and virtually all the armaments and other military property. The armed forces are divided into four branches: the army, air force, and border guards. The government has announced plans to establish a naval force on the Caspian Sea.

Turkmenistan has three types of paramilitary forces: the border guard, the national guard, and the internal troops of the Ministry of National Security. The number of personnel in each is not known. The border guards patrol the wild, mountainous Afghan and Iranian frontiers, which total 1,750 kilometers and are rated the most sensitive borders of the country. The guards have small arms and some armored personnel carriers; experts evaluate them as an effective border force.

In 1992, Moscow and Ashgabat signed an agreement on the joint protection of the State border of Turkmenistan and the status of Russian soldiers on the territory of Turkmenistan. The agreement was of indefinite duration. The Border Guard Command was established in 1992 to replace the Soviet-era Central Asian Border Troops District of the Committee for State Security (KGB) of the Soviet Union. In March 1994 the Federal task force was set up, which then numbered over 3000 soldiers. About 5,000 personnel served in the Turkmenistan Border Guard, which was commanded jointly by Turkmenistan and Russia. The treaty provided for command of the armed forces to gradually shift from Russian to Turkmenistani officers. On 20 May 2000, the Turkmen side has unilaterally offered to terminate the contract, and on 20 December 2000 Russian border guards left Turkmenistan. Three new border guard units were formed in 2001.

In the mid-1990s, Turkmenistan lacked adequate matriel and technical support for its armed forces. However, a protocol with the Russian Arms Company (Rosvooruzheniye) provided for delivery of much-needed arms to Turkmenistan's military in 1995-96 in return for natural gas. Under this agreement, Turkmenistan was to supply 6 billion cubic meters of gas annually to the Russian Natural Gas Company (Gazprom) for sale to industries that will fill arms orders for Turkmenistan. Rosvooruzheniye also was to transfer 30 percent of this revenue to hard-currency accounts in Turkmenistan.

The 1992 constitution provides for universal conscription of males for service in the national armed forces. The period of regular service was initially eighteen months for army draftees [later lengthened to two years] and one year for those with higher education [later lengthened to eighteen months]. Draft deferments from active military duty are granted only to individuals involved in seasonal animal herding. A presidential decree of July 1992 allowed two-year alternative service at a state enterprise for conscripts in certain categories, but this decree was nullifed in December 1994, though subsequently re-instated.

Conditions of service seriously deteriorated in the years immediately following independence. Large numbers of Turkmen were absent without leave from units outside and within Turkmenistan, hazing and fighting on ethnic and regional grounds were common among conscripts, instances of insubordination and failure to comply with orders increased, and relations between the Russian officer corps and Turkmen troops were strained to the breaking point. In recent years, discipline has been strengthened somewhat by improved working conditions, amnesty for some cases of absence without leave, the removal of political organs from the armed services, and increased opportunities for service within Turkmenistan. In addition, legislation has improved pensions given to career personnel in the Ministry of Defense, the Committee for National Security, the Border Guard, and the Interior Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, when men reach the age of fifty-five and women the age of fifty.

All of the personnel except officers in the armed forces are conscripts, more than 90 percent of whom are Turkmen. By contrast, about 95 percent of the officer corps is made up of Slavs. After many Russian officers had left Turkmenistan under the negative conditions of the early 1990s, others were prevented from leaving by a September 1993 agreement giving Russian citizens the option of fulfilling their military obligation in Turkmenistan, swearing allegiance to either state, or transferring to any region of Russia after five years of service in Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistani officers are trained in military educational establishments of the Russian Federation's Ministry of Defense, while Russian officers in Turkmenistan train draftee sergeants and specialists. Some limited training is provided in the military faculty established at Turkmenistan State University. Turkmenistan has sent about 300 of its officers to training schools in Turkey, but it declined an offer from Pakistan's general staff to provide officer training in Pakistani war colleges.

Although Turkmenistan's military has Soviet-origin equipment, since independence all purchases have been made via Ukraine, first as barter for gas, and now for cash. Turkmenistan was not to come to an agreement with the United States on equipment sales until 2002, and the first deliveries did not occur until 2003.

The military completed a "major" battalion-level exercise on 04 March 2009, which seemingly shifted the national priority to a counter-narcotics mission focused on the Afghan border. Military reforms are ongoing, but the extent, direction, and opportunities for international involvement -- remain ill-defined and limited.

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Page last modified: 13-03-2013 16:09:24 ZULU