Kyrgyz Armed Forces Day, scheduled for May 27, normally passes with a routine military parade. However, in the current tense political climate in Kyrgyzstan, routine has given way to suspicion and rumor. Opposition groups ignited controversy surrounding the parade, notably the “For Reforms” movement, by scheduling a mass rally in Ala-Too Square, Bishkek, on the same day. Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov reluctantly announced that the parade would be postponed to May 29, since the scheduling conflict with the political demonstration appeared too coincidental. In fact, Isakov went to great lengths to explain publicly why the date had been chosen and tried his best to allay fears that the parade was meant to intimidate (Public Educational Radio and TV, May 22).
Corruption, underfunding, and the problems of Soviet-legacy forces combine to make Kyrgyzstan’s weak armed forces and security structures struggle to cope with security threats. Put simply, they are not up to the job. Add to this their generally poor reputation among the public and the failure of the March 2005 “color revolution” to bring the plurality many hoped for and the continued reporting of incompetence within key security agencies, it becomes clear that the Kyrgyz authorities suffer from more than just a public relations problem.
Myrzakan Subanov, commander of the Kyrgyz Border Service, admitted on May 22 that the border troops could not control the national borders — a fact noted time and time again by many outside the country and the basis of much American security assistance. He attributed this to a lack of manpower and the means to patrol the porous border. This admission is entirely consistent with reporting on the militant attacks in the country on May 12 (see EDM, May 23). The military intelligence service knew these incursions were planned and passed the information to the Security Council, which in turn alerted the border service. However, the militants were able to penetrate poorly protected parts of the border. Subanov noted the scale of the task facing his country, commenting that it is only feasible to patrol sections of the border: “We should have trustworthy, daily, and regular intelligence. It is obvious that the intelligence service made a bad work of it this time. The next thing is interaction [between security agencies], which must be agreed in advance on how we are to cooperate in such situations,” Subanov said. The border service is weak, in Subanov’s view, but he blames the intelligence service.
The area where the militants were engaged is mountainous, and this seems to explain the avoidance of Russian assistance. Isakov appealed for more foreign aid, “We have enough manpower to maintain the security of the country. If you support us, if we have financing, if officers are trained in new combat methods, naturally, we shall be able to do a much better job of maintaining security of Kyrgyzstan, and that’s what we are trying to do today” (Pyramid TV, Bishkek, May 22). Evidently, the defense minister believes sufficient manpower exists: his solution is to give the country more money.
The elite National Guard has suffered personnel problems at the highest levels as the regime struggles to find suitable senior commanders. On May 25 Reserve Colonel Sultan Kurmanov was relieved of his post as commander of the National Guard. His replacement, Major-General Asanbek Alymkozhoyev, a former commander of the Southern Army Group, held no official post before his promotion. Kurmanov had only been in his post since September 2005, when he replaced General Abdygul Chotbayev. On May 26, two deputy commander posts were abolished at the Kyrgyz National Guard on presidential orders (24 kg, May 26).
Kyrgyz intelligence is in turmoil. Busurmankul Tabaldiyev, head of the National Security Service (NSS), has denied rumors that a large-scale purge is imminent within the ranks of the intelligence service. He stressed the importance of his agency being allowed to work stably. Tabaldiyev has fought hard to achieve such stable conditions, campaigning for officers with state security police training to work within the NSS. He also wants these officers to be trained at specialist FSB educational centers in Russia.
Tabaldiyev advocates the creation of a National Anti-Terrorist Center, placed under the operational authority of the NSS. He has made these views known to the Kyrgyz parliament’s committee for defense, security, law, order, and information policy. He wants to enhance specialist units in all security services, supplying modern weapons and communications in order that special response units will have an edge on drug smugglers and terrorists. The creation of special units consisting of highly skilled contract servicemen is also under consideration. He presents himself as a man with many ideas.
Tabaldiyev told the Kyrgyz parliament that isolated groups of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are active in Central Asia and stressed the continued security threat posed by armed drug smuggling groups. The May 12 militant attack on a border post in southern Batken Region could be repeated, according to Tabaldiyev. He also blames the shortcomings in protecting the state border; he believes those stem from inadequate funding of the Border Service. Kyrgyz intelligence officers apparently believe there is a need for more border guards, patrols, checkpoints, border posts, equipment, and general support from government. For the time being, the security structures have learned one key lesson from militants testing border security: blame the border troops (Kabar, May 23, 26).