NATO has apparently agreed to help Kyrgyzstan renovate its border posts and arms depots, after a NATO official traveled to Bishkek and met with President Roza Otunbayeva. From Reuters:
"The president stated that the technical standard of border posts was insufficient and appealed to NATO's leadership to provide support in this respect," Otunbayeva's press service said in a statement after the meeting.
It said Appathurai "expressed NATO's readiness to assist in conducting a major overhaul of depots holding rocket and artillery weapons of the Kyrgyz Republic's Defense Ministry, with particular emphasis on the southern region of the country."
It gave no further detail.
There also appears to be no word from NATO.
In March, Otunbayeva visited Brussels and asked NATO for counterterrorism help, but didn't specify much about what that would entail.
Aside from the technical help that NATO will provide, this seems to be further evidence that Otunbayeva seems to be trying, gently, to orient Kyrgyzstan away from Russia, or at least adding some strategic counterbalance. Remember when everyone was convinced last year that the unrest that led to Otunbayeva assuming the presidency was engineered by Russia? If so, Moscow has to have some buyer's remorse.
Special police units descend from a helicopter in joint counter-terror exercises held between China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have carried out counterterrorism exercises in Kashgar, in China's western Xinjiang province, under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And while exercises like this are often conducted against hypothetical or at least thinly veiled enemies, that's not the case with this one, named Tianshan-II -- it was all about the Uyghurs:
"Signs are the 'East Turkistan' terrorists are flowing back," Vice-Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei said after the exercise. "The drill was designed against the backdrop that they are very likely to penetrate into China from Central Asia..."
A spokesman for the National Counter-terrorism Office of China said that while the region is generally stable, the "three forces" have been colluding with "East Turkistan" terrorist forces both in and out of China to involve in cross-border activities in recent years.
They wait for opportune moments to start up disturbances that have remained a common threat to SCO member states, the spokesman said when describing the reason why Xinjiang was chosen for the exercise.
In July 2009, nearly 200 people were killed and 1,700 injured in Urumqi, the capital of the autonomous region, in violence believed to have been masterminded by a separatist group based overseas.
Uyghur separatism, of course, is not a "common threat" to any SCO member state other than China, and the violence in Urumqi was, by all accounts, the product of local grievances rather than being "masterminded" from abroad. But anyway, the specific scenario of this exercise, according to Peoples Daily Online::
The scenario called on the three countries to coordinate a manhunt for separatists who had set up a training camp on the Chinese side of the border, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
Some articles appearing in Kyrgyzstan's media these days are hateful and obnoxious. But then sometimes there are views that are so barking mad as to tip from intolerant to plain ludicrous. The problem is, in Kyrgyzstan's tense environment, delusion and denial could foment more unrest.
Step forward political "expert" Talant Razzakov, who was interviewed by AKIpress news agency about the independent international report into the ethnic bloodshed in Osh last summer.
Clearly disappointed with not finding enough to be disgruntled with, Razzakov has compromised it by simply concocting patent nonsense about a nebulous first draft of the Kyrgyz Inquiry Commission (KIC) report released May 3.
KIC team leader Kimmo Kiljunen categorically stated that there was no qualification for describing the violence in Osh as a genocide, but Razzakov claims that terminology was in fact used in the initial version of the report: "I have read the first printed version and the main idea was like that. But then members of the commission denied that they had written the report."
Several weeks ago, mere rumors the word had been used by foreigners to describe the tragedy drew a a protest outside the parliament and the UN.
The security forces of Kyrgyzstan bear some blame for the violence last year between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, according to the comprehensive international report on the events, just released. But for the most part, the report paints the picture of passive, rather than active, military involvement in the violence.
The role of the security forces in the events was significant. The military personnel under the command of the Provisional Government numbered 2,000. The KIC is of the opinion that had those troops been properly instructed and deployed, it would have been possible to prevent or stop the violence and to block the access to Osh city by the attackers who moved from rural areas. The failure of members of the security forces to protect their equipment raises questions of complicity in the events, either directly or indirectly. Further, some members of the military were involved in some of the attacks on the mahallas.
In most cases, the report carefully accuses the military of sins of omission, rather than commission, for not doing anything to stop the violence, the requisitioning of military equipment by the mobs or to subsequently recover the weapons that were seized in those days. Then defense minister and current MP Ismail Isakov comes in for particular censure:
Uyghur activists in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have been forbidden from traveling to the U.S. for a conference, and they say it's as a result of pressure from China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
One of the activists in Kazakhstan, Kahriman Ghojamberdi, told Radio Free Asia's Uyghur service that customs officials at the airport in Almaty surreptitiously ripped out pages in his passport, and then told him that his passport was invalid for travel:
“Obviously, it is a slander to block me from the conference by orders from China. The Central Asian countries are acting as one of the provinces of China since the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was established,” Ghojamberdi said.
Four activists from Kyrgyzstan apparently had the same thing happen, and Ghojamberdi said several other Uyghurs in Kazakhstan were harassed by police and intimidated into not going to the conference:
“In the past 30 days most of my friends who received invitations from Washington to attend the congress were ‘investigated’ by Kazakh police and ‘persuaded’ not to attend the conference."
The SCO, recall, is the regional security organization consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Just a month ago, the U.S. mooted the idea of cooperating with the group, while a human rights group put out a report explaining the risks of these sorts of anti-Uyghur crackdowns in Central Asia under the auspices of the SCO.
Hundreds of young Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan are getting into the terrorism business, says Keneshbek Dushebayev, the head of Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (GKNB). Moreover, they have created yet another new extremist organization, the Islamic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (IMK), he said without providing evidence on April 29.
That the 400 or so would-be terrorists training in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan are mainly ethnic Uzbeks is a charged assertion in the current climate of rising Kyrgyz nationalism.
Dushebayev says the IMK is a newly set-up group, and there is no evidence of it having appeared in news reports until now. With no real details, the likelihood is that the IMK will simply be added to the alphabet soup of acronyms designating alleged terrorist groups in all their guises, alongside the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan (IMT) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU).
Dushebayev has been making ominous warnings about the threat of terrorist violence since last summer’s ethnic bloodletting in southern Kyrgyzstan. At the start of the year, he announced that a group of detained militants had been planning five attacks in the country and predicted that the number of terrorist plots discovered could increase as the investigation proceeded.
The U.S. is showing no signs of leaving its air base at Manas, but Kyrgyzstan's prime minister, Almazbek Atambayev, has some ideas for what he wants to happen to it after the Americans go home. On an official visit to Turkey, Atambayev said that he wanted Manas to become a "public transit center," used for trade rather than military:
“Over a thousand people work at airbase,” he said. “What shall we do with them when U.S. withdraw it troops from Afghanistan? We must establish modern transit center at the place of airbase. And, as a first step toward this idea, we have agreed with Primes Minister of Turkey to open cargo flight Istanbul – Bishkek – Shanghai.”
According to him, Kyrgyzstan may become a transit country out of dead-locked country. Construction of railway from People's Republic of China to Uzbekistan will serve to this purpose. “We can make a profit on goods transit,” stressed Almazbek Atambayev.
Atambayev was clearly thinking big in Ankara, and this proposal seems to be only one part of a hazily envisioned future of a pan-Turkic/Slavic union. "I think eventually we will create a common space with Russia and Turkey, with its headquarters in Bishkek," he said. Indeed, a U.S. air base would seem to be an awkward fit then...
Kyrgyzstanlooks more and more like Moscow’s yo-yo.
Petrol prices and concomitant inflation are set to skyrocket again in the poverty-stricken Central Asian country after Moscow suddenly decided yesterday to reimpose a duty on fuel deliveries. The new rate -- about $408/ton, according to 24.kg -- is considerably higher than the one that had been in effect earlier this year, and any meager gains the Kyrgyz economy has experienced in the past few months would be wiped out by the increase, set to start May 1.
Even before this latest blight, the World Bank was warning of Kyrgyzstan’s susceptibility to worldwide inflation, brought on in part by rising petrol and food prices. One bit of good news, a World Bank representative said just today, had been the recent end to these very duties.
So why now? Only a few weeks ago the Kremlin told Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev that Russia would drop fuel duties, which it had first imposed in April 2010 in a move that helped push former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev out of office. Depending on how you count, this would be the third or fourth time Moscow has imposed duties in the past year or so, only to drop them later.
Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg earlier this week began disclosing portions of an independent international inquiry into the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan last summer.
On April 29, Russian daily Kommersant followed up with its own story based on a leaked copy of the report. This article repeats much of what came before, but makes a couple of notable departures.
According to the newspaper, the report explains that the interim government that took power after the April 7 unrest only controlled the north of the country. It was thus forced to rely on Uzbeks in the south to squeeze out supporters of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a process that culminated in the overtly political unrest in Jalal-Abad in the middle of May. Summarizing the report, Kommersant comments: "So the political confrontation between the new government and supporters of the ousted president turned into an ethnic conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks."
It is this kind of finding that already has some up in arms, like parliamentarian Ismail Isakov. According to 24.kg's accounts of the leaked report, the international investigation criticizes Isakov, who was the interim government's special representative in southern Kyrgyzstan and took over security operations during the unrest, for failing to dispatch forces "with clear orders and rules of engagement."
The Kyrgyz-language newspaper Aykin Sayasat published an outrageous commentary on April 27, titled “Will the ‘Jews’ Leave Us with Nothing?”. Its appearance raises concerns that unchecked bigotry can spur more violence in Kyrgyzstan.
Among the many disturbing aspects to the piece is its use of the pejorative term “жиды” (zhidy), instead of “евреи” (yevrei), to characterize Jews. Beyond that, the article rants that Jews have “over a number of years, and in many different countries, developed anti-state policies.” It also revives a rumor that former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s notoriously venal son, Maxim, was Jewish.
It is worth remembering before going into a more thorough discussion of the article’s contents that on April 7, 2010, the day Bakiyev was driven out of Bishkek, anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in the central Ala-Too Square. That same day, a Molotov cocktail was hurled into the country’s only synagogue. In September, that synagogue was again target of an attack – this time attackers launched an explosive device at the building.
Officials in Bishkek have been conspicuously silent on the Aykin Sayasat commentary. Such reticence sharply contrasts to their response to the alleged publication of The Hour of the Jackal, a book they say has been funded by scheming ethnic Uzbeks seeking to incite racial hatred. Kyrgyzstan’s Prosecutor General has even opened a criminal investigation into the matter.