29 september 2020

Central Asia news

Uzbekistan’s New Centurions

12.08.2013 09:15 msk

Yadgor Norbutayev

Analytics Politics Uzbekistan

The «Sunny Country», as Uzbekistan has been called under «President Islam Karimov’s leadership» lately, continues relentlessly surprising the world with original innovations.

So, as the new academic year starts this autumn, according to the Central Asia Online portal, all military and law enforcement academies will launch an expedited preparation of young officers in the field of Combatting Terrorism. It is said that these units would be formed not only by newly entering students, but could also include those students currently pursuing degrees in other similar fields. Over 100 highly qualified terrorist fighters are expected to graduate every year.

This, actually, seems odd. Why so many? It would be easier to understand if they trained young detectives to catch pickpockets or petty thieves. But this is a serious matter—combatting terrorism! However, an attentive eye can dissect a certain sense and purpose in any action the Uzbek authorities undertake.

Normally, when a certain country’s antiterrorism efforts are discussed, they are compared to those of the US or Israel (as they are considered most successful) and comparisons are drawn. Shall we do the same then?

What has made the US special services famous lately? The fact that they, as it appears, use electronic control and other high-tech tools to totally track virtually all of their citizens and foreign nations’ representatives under the brand of “antiterrorism.” So what, right? In Uzbekistan, any phone conversation is listened for a very long time and virtually all of the mail is perused. It will not take you more than three mouse clicks in hopes to access a banned website in an Internet café that you will see “competent individuals” behind yourself, whisking you away. Good luck explaining and proving that you were not trying “to contact religious extremists!” It, therefore, turns out the American special service fellows could learn from their Uzbek colleagues, not the other way around, how to hold electronic surveillance of the population!

Rumor has it that in highly praised Israel even simpleton girls selling newspapers in airports is actually a special services officer and, if need be, is able to singlehandedly pin several terrorists onto the floor. Ha-ha-ha! The entire MOSSAD must come to Uzbekistan for training! In Tashkent, potential terrorist will not only fail to reach the waiting hall in the airport, where newspapers are sold, but will be able to even enter the airport building! How could s/he?! There are concrete blocks half a kilometer away from the building! One cannot ride up, walk up or even crawl up to the airport!

Passports are checked at the railway stations, checkpoints within the country manned with machinegun wielding soldiers and located each 100 km apart—you don't find such grip on citizens anywhere else! So you see that if some unintelligent terrorist does foolishly decide to come to Uzbekistan, even the ground he’s standing on would snatch him! It is not for nothing that the “Uzbek vigilance model” is the most efficient one in the world these days!

Any applied science, including Combatting Terrorism, has its own specific peculiarities and peculiar specificities. This particular “science” dissects the state structure engaged in this activity into “brain,” “hands” and “auxiliary” services. While the ad-hoc names could be altered based on their specific tasks and locations, the essence always remains unchanged.

“Brains” is the national headquarters for combatting terrorism. It is usually led by military officers but could sometimes be headed by civilian politicians. But the backbone of such an HQ is scientists and experts in various sciences. For instance, psychologists, explosion and burn theorists, theologians, chemistry experts, linguists and IT guys… While they are usually engaged upon necessity, there are those who are full time experts busy perfecting the theory of combating terrorism and optimizing its application. In any event, these people possess remarkable knowledge and rich life experiences. Hence their small numbers: one or two experts on each subject.

“Hands” is something quite different. For instance, superclass sharpshooters or sappers who spent many years in armed forces and were exposed to combats and battles. Some of them are so-called negotiators who have almost hypnotizing persuasion skills. Each of such soldiers is unique, a gemstone, if you will; hence the limited number. There was only one (well, almost only one) squad Alfa Anti-terror in the entire large former Soviet Union. Such units, as a rule, are geographically located in such a place, from which they can reach any point in the country as soon as possible. There are local auxiliary units as well, and they are tasked with blocking terrorists’ activities until the “central forces” arrive.

So, the theory and practice of combating terrorism have become rather acute issues nowadays; no wonder virtually every single country in the world is developing its own theory and practices. The global system suggests there is one peculiarity—states engage top-notch experts in their respective societies to combat terrorism. Because even the smallest “human factor” can lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.

It is therefore crucially important to first select “human material” to be trained and prepared to combat this vice; the mass enrollment is certainly not a factor the success of such matters depends on. It, therefore, begs a question: How could one qualify the Uzbek authorities’ plans to rapidly increase the numbers of certified terrorism fighters?

Students of an academy of the highest command of the Uzbek armed forces acquiring knowledge on striking terrorists using the Russian Grad multi-rocket launcher; photo taken here

Yet one ought not to think the Uzbek authorities are naïve. Most probably, there is something big and substantial behind the idea of establishing the new officers corps. And it is rather easy to decipher that. First, one must ask the following question: What is defined as “terrorism” in Uzbekistan? Well, many things! Imagine several elderly women enjoying their retirement years gathering for a joint prayer. They are immediately arrested for plotting a terrorist act. Do not similar occurrences frequently happen in Uzbekistan?

Let us then draw a conclusion: ANY kind of opposition to the incumbent government is considered terrorism in Uzbekistan! It would therefore be quite logical if the Uzbek government uses specially trained units to quell disturbances like those in Tunisia or Egypt; not regular troops or sleepy policemen or tank units, but special task officers! Such units would be deployed to dismantle barricades and those manning them; for that, these units will use weapons no questions asked as long as there is a command to do so.

Yadgor Norbutayev

Fergana International Information Agency