Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 159

The Islamic insurgents in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken and Choi-Alan districts continue successfully to elude government troops. By the same token, they seem unable thus far to attain their presumed, primary goal of reaching Uzbek and Kyrgyz sections of the Ferghana Valley. On August 30, Uzbek fighter-bomber aircraft mistakenly killed five and wounded fifteen Kyrgyz civilians in Choi-Alan. The Kyrgyz government had authorized the strikes, but Kyrgyz air defense batteries fired on the Uzbek planes after the incident. Kyrgyzstan has as a result ordered a suspension of Uzbek air strikes.

President Askar Akaev has ordered a selective mobilization of veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan to fight the Islamic rebels. At least some of those veterans are presumably experienced in anti-insurgency mountain warfare. Post-Soviet era Kyrgyz conscripts are clearly not up to the task.

On August 28, Russian officials offered to send military equipment and troops to Kyrgyzstan at its request in order to defeat the Islamic rebels. On August 30, Russia’s Defense Minister Igor Sergeev conferred in Moscow with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Esen Topoev, and with Kyrgyzstan’s First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silaev–that country’s most senior Russian official. Akaev and other Kyrgyz officials have requested Russian assistance in the form of equipment, but have reserved a conclusive answer regarding the troops. Thus far Bishkek insists that Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries can handle the situation basically on their own, with some Russian technical assistance.

Kazakhstan’s Defense Ministry on August 29 and 30 offered to send veterans of the war in Afghanistan as “volunteers” for combat duty in Kyrgyzstan. Senior defense and security officials and staff officers of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have set up a joint operational headquarter in the city of Osh, the administrative center of the eponymous region in which the Batken and Choi-Alan districts are located.

The Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan–the permanently neutral Turkmenistan stayed out–met on August 28 in Osh. The ministers signed a document which is being described as a joint plan to curb cross-border incursions by militants in central Asia in general. The document referred to the rebels as terrorists controlled by foreign countries and organizations; but the ministers stopped short of naming those external sponsors. The meeting served notice that the four countries would take “resolute and severe measures” against illegal border-crossing by armed groups and their “terrorist acts against the peaceful population.” Officials from the four countries now hint that the effort to defeat the guerrillas will require time and large forces (Itar-Tass, Kyrgyzhabar, Habar (Almaty), Hovar (Dushanbe), Kyodo, AP, Reuters, August 28-30; see also the Monitor, August 24-27).

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