Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, shaken by recent events within Kyrgyzstan, used the opportunity presented by the November 28 Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Minsk to reassert his efforts to improve national security. During his meeting in Minsk with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rakhmonov, he explored the current state of bilateral relations with Dushanbe and discussed the two states’ participation in multilateral security bodies. Along with other Central Asian leaders they opened a dialogue on ways of enhancing the CIS, which is bereft of practical content (Kabar, November 28).
While attending a November 21 ceremony devoted to Law Enforcement Agencies’ Day in Bishkek, Bakiyev outlined his assessment of Kyrgyz security: “The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry and the National Security Service have dealt with difficult situations — political campaigns and terrorist incursions — with honor this year. As a result of operations by the Interior Ministry and the National Security Service, 13 militants have been killed and 20 others have been arrested. Five leaders of the extremist organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir have been detained and 12 cells of this organization have been revealed. The interior and security forces have also succeeded in finding a large amount of arms that were in the possession of the country’s people,” Bakiyev suggested (24.kg, November 21). Urging the Interior Ministry and the National Security Service to purge their ranks of the endemic corruption that has so beset these security agencies, Bakiyev offered support for carrying out necessary personnel changes.
Bakiyev has found positive results elsewhere in his search for proof that his regime is actually improving security. Briefed on November 22 by Bolotbek Nogoybayev, the director of the Kyrgyz Drug Control Agency (DCA) regarding progress in combating drug trafficking, he learned how the agency is achieving results. Nogoybayev emphasized the statistical evidence of an improvement in the DCA’s work during the first nine months of 2006, seizing 39.5% more narcotics than in the same period in 2005. This was attributed to the DCA’s successful coordination with the Interior Ministry and National Security Service, as well as better cooperation with neighboring countries. Bakiyev attaches great significance to these statistics, despite the wider problems presented by corruption within the Kyrgyz security agencies and the continued success of drug traffickers throughout Central Asia, who are keen to take credit for what can easily be portrayed as a clear demonstration of progress. Nogoybayev noted that three DCA officers were awarded medals from the Russian Federal Drug Control Service for cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking and transnational crime. Thus, without being too explicit about it, Bakiyev realizes that Kyrgyz success in combating drug trafficking stems partly from enhanced cooperation with Moscow (Kabar, November 22).
A sociological opinion poll conducted in Kyrgyzstan by the U.S. International Republican Institute this fall, surveying 1,500 people, found that 91% of Kyrgyz respondents believed that Kyrgyzstan should give priority to Russia in its foreign relations. Interestingly, regional cooperation was low on the agenda, with only 5% favoring Kazakhstan while 3% looked to Uzbekistan. The United States and Turkey each received 2% (24.kg, November 21). The Kyrgyz public, according to this poll, appears more settled about relations with Russia, although Bakiyev is sensitive to his predecessor’s legacy and may want to be less obvious about a new sense of security reliance on Moscow.
Specific examples of foreign security cooperation yielding dividends in Kyrgyzstan are becoming more frequent, and they are understandably publicized to supply favorable presidential publicity. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Felix Kulov highlighted the refurbishment of the Dostuk checkpoint on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in southern Kyrgyzstan, scheduled for completion in January 2007, with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Officials hope that the Dostuk checkpoint will meet international standards; success in this venture will presage the refurbishment of other checkpoints. The IOM has supplied grants-in-aid worth around 300 million soms to Kyrgyzstan since this organization opened its office in Bishkek. “I express my gratitude to the international organization for the help being given to our country. I believe that the measures you are carrying out are aimed at strengthening our checkpoints, not in order for us to close our borders but to make them transparent and in order for borders to be transparent for society,” said Kulov (Kyrgyz Television 1, November 21).
Kurmanbek Zhoroyev, a senior official of the state agency for preventing corruption, described tax, customs, border guards, and police in Kyrgyzstan as “champions” in taking bribes and lamented the inability of his agency to do anything other than monitor the extent of corruption. The agency can expose cases of corruption, but the evidence is in turn sent to a corrupt law-enforcement agency, where a bribe taking official may contact another individual and escape punishment (Vecherny Bishkek, November 13).
Bakiyev still pays lip service to the concept of promoting greater regional security cooperation, while in practical terms relying on Russia for his external security needs and within the country investing tremendous trust in the roles of the Interior Ministry and the National Security Service: but does Bakiyev see these agencies as the key to protecting Kyrgyzstan from its internal enemies or to merely support himself in office?