CSTO seeks ways to better secure central Asia

Eurasia Daily Monitor, DC
May 25 2007

CSTO SEEKS WAYS TO BETTER SECURE CENTRAL ASIA

By Sergei Blagov

Friday, May 25, 2007

General Nikolai Bordyuzha, general secretary of the Collective
Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), visited Bishkek May 21-23 to
discuss CSTO plans for the second half of this year and the first
half of 2008, when Kyrgyzstan is due to head the organization.
Bordyuzha’s trip to Bishkek was the latest in a series of visits to
the CSTO member states. In March, he traveled to Armenia and
Tajikistan, while in April he visited Belarus and Kazakhstan. Russia
and Uzbekistan round out the CSTO membership.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told Bordyuzha that his country
prioritizes cooperation within the framework of the CSTO to uphold
security in Central Asia. The CSTO should work to counter threats and
challenges, he said. Kyrgyzstan faces threats from international
terrorism, and now the country’s armed and special forces are
prepared to safeguard security within the framework of the CSTO,
according to Bakiyev (Interfax, May 23).

On the eve of the upcoming June CSTO summit, the leaders of the
organization have apparently intensified their diplomatic activities.
On May 21, the CSTO held a session of its Permanent Council in
Moscow, which reportedly focused on military and collective security
planning for 2008.

On May 22, Bordyuzha told a conference in Bishkek that the CSTO was
moving toward forming an Anti-Terrorist Committee to include top
security and intelligence officials, as well as establishing
Collective Regional Anti-Terrorist Forces. He also said that the CSTO
was also considering creating its own peacekeeping forces, as well as
a joint system to deal with illegal migration.

The CSTO officially views Islamic militants as a major challenge in
the region. Bordyuzha cited Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement
of Uzbekistan as ongoing terrorist threats, saying these radial
groups aim to overthrow secular regimes in Central Asia and create a
theocratic Caliphate in the Ferghana Valley. These plans constitute a
threat to territorial integrity of the three countries: Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

Simultaneously, the CSTO appeared to view Western activities in the
region as meddling and yet another challenge. NATO and the United
States are trying to broaden their influence in Central Asia,
Bordyuzha said. "Challenges and risks brought from outside do not
contribute to stability" in the region, he argued. He cited increased
activity by NATO, EU, and third countries as risk factors (Interfax,
RIA-Novosti, May 22).

Bordyuzha also criticized the concept of a "Greater Central Asia" as
aimed at sowing divisions between Russia and countries of the region.
It constitutes an attempt to "re-orient Central Asian states to
cooperate with the U.S. in a new format to include Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and India eventually," he said.

Kyrgyz Secretary of State Adakhan Madumarov sounded more diplomatic
in his address, as he only suggested boosting multilateral
cooperation to deal with modern threats. He also hailed the CSTO, the
SCO, and well as the Commonwealth of Independent States
Anti-Terrorist Center for upholding regional security. He argued that
Russia’s Kant airbase plays an important role in safeguarding Kyrgyz
security.

After a meeting with Bordyuzha, Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov
confirmed that the CSTO plans to form a joint army group in addition
to the existing CSTO collective rapid reaction forces. However, he
conceded differences exist among member states on the issue, notably
between Russia and Kazakhstan, but he did not elaborate (Interfax,
May 21).

The CSTO joint army group would work to neutralize possible terrorist
attacks, notably by Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Bordyuzha said.
The CSTO countries are also drafting an agreement on military aid to
a member state in the event of external aggression, he said. Due to
weakness of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban is
becoming increasingly stronger and Central Asian leaders may find
themselves face-to-face with this threat at any time, he claimed.

The CSTO has long criticized the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan
for failing to eradicate terrorist bases and for tolerating the
trafficking of Afghan heroin to Russia and Europe. CSTO officials
have repeatedly lashed out at NATO’s perceived reluctance to
cooperate with the CSTO in Afghanistan. At the June 2005 CSTO summit
in Moscow, leaders decided to set up a working group to coordinate
with Afghanistan.

CSTO officials have tried to be restrained in their criticism of the
U.S.-led coalition. On May 21, Bordyuzha announced that the CSTO was
not concerned about the presence of coalition forces at Manas airbase
outside Bishkek. Once stabilization has been achieved in Afghanistan,
then the Manas base would no longer be relevant, he argued (Regnum,
May 21). Since Bordyuzha’s trip there have been renewed calls to
revisit the agreement on Manas airbase.

Some Kyrgyz officials also hinted that an increased Russian security
presence in the country could be an option. On May 21 Kyrgyz
parliament speaker Marat Sultanov said that, during a recent visit to
Moscow, he had discussed a possible return of Russian border guard
troops to Kyrgyzstan. He argued that the country does not have
sufficient resources to protect its southern borders, which also
constitute the CSTO frontier (RIA-Novosti, May 21). Russian border
guards left Kyrgyzstan in 1999.

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