From July 29 to August 1, Kazakh army and Internal Affairs troops held exercises in the south of the country. Kyrgyz military units joined in some phases of the exercises. Watched by President Nursultan Nazarbaev in his capacity as commander in chief of Kazakhstan’s armed forces, the exercises rehearsed joint counteractions by Kazakh and Kyrgyz army and Interior forces against “terrorist armed groups” intruding from the south.
The counteractions entailed three phases: first, isolating the invaded region and localizing the conflict; second, pinning down the invading force; and, third, destroying that force. The scenario presupposed hostilities in a mountainous and desert environment. The main phases of the exercise were held at the Kazakh army’s Otar testing range in the Zhambyl Region. Artillery, armor, tactical aviation, and helicopter-borne paratroops took part in the exercises.
The event also marked the completion of organizational measures to create Kazakhstan’s southern military district. Otar is the base of a newly formed motor-rifle brigade, Kazakhstan’s first modern military unit in the post-Soviet era. The government had decided last year to create four military districts: southern, eastern, western and central. The absence of a northern military district looks like a political gesture to Russia. Priority was assigned to organizing the southern district, reflecting the leadership’s stated concerns over possible “Islamic terrorist” incursions from the south. The eastern, western, and central military districts are still in the process of being formed.
In a parallel move, the government decided earlier this year to double the military and security budget for the current year and to raise it to the level of at least 1 percent of the gross domestic product in 2001, up from the current 0.57 percent. Announcing that decision, the government cited the recent revenue increases which are in turn due to rising world prices for oil and metals–Kazakhstan’s main exports.
The progress is, however, overshadowed by the arrest last week of Ers Koshkarov, the head of Kazakhstan’s state-owned arms export company. Koshkarov and an aide are suspected of involvement in the as-yet unexplained assassination of Koshkarov’s predecessor as head of the arms export company, Talgat Ibraev, in April of this year (Habar, July 29-31, August 3; see the Monitor, March 30, April 20, July 5; Fortnight in Review, April 14).
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