Kyrgyzstan looks for border security funding

The country is working to protect against possible terrorist incursions by implementing comprehensive reforms.

By Asker Sultanov

2012-10-25

BISHKEK – Although terrorist activity typically cools down during the Kyrgyz winter, the debate over it has heated up.

The issue of counter-extremism security has been repeatedly raised in parliament recently, Tokon Mamytov, chairman of the Kyrgyz Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security, told Central Asia Online.

In response, the government is considering a series of improvements, including better pay for border guards, the construction of new border-point facilities, and a better communications network between check-points.

But the suggested improvements cost money and before the country can really make strides in this regard, it faces the challenge of soliciting funds from international groups and foreign governments.

"It is very difficult to shore up the entire border," Kyrgyz political scientist Marat Kazakbayev said. But one thing is clear: if the country does not take action, the threat of cross-border terrorist attacks will increase, he said.

Officials aware of the problem

Kyrgyz officials recognise the need for border security in fighting terror.

In a summer address to his ministers, President Almazbek Atambayev pushed for an increase in funding for border security. And he signed a planning document on Kyrgyz national security June 12 that looks to resolve problems that have accumulated in the border force.

"The document suggests mobilising government agencies, NGOs and the public to address military and information security," Mamytov said.

Kyrgyzstan also hopes to continue taking advantage of the Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA). BOMCA has helped to improve border security in Kyrgyzstan since its 2003 implementation, BOMCA country manager Ruslan Baiysh Tegin said.

"At present, the republic is implementing phase 8 (July 2011-June 2014) with a total budget of about $2.5m (118m KGS)," he told Central Asia Online. "The programme is helping to reform the legal and institutional framework necessary for the implementation of modern border management methods, that is, Integrated Border Management in accordance with the best EU practices."

BOMCA will also provide provisional equipment, training courses, and study tours of EU countries for conferences and seminars, Tegin said.

At an international donor conference scheduled for November 20, Kyrgyzstan will present its action plan for the implementation of integrated management of the state border, Tegin said.

"This conference may help the country to attract additional funds for border security reform," he said. Kyrgyzstan will emphasise that it is one of the main stopping-points along the drug-trafficking route out of Afghanistan and that at least 5% of the drug flow is interdicted at its border, Bekov said.

Without improved security, Kyrgyzstan might again become a hub for international terrorists, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), as was the case in 1999-2000, when terrorists from abroad arrived in Batken Oblast, Bekov explained.

To prevent these events, Kyrgyzstan needs stronger border security, he said.

Border security issues

In 2012, Kyrgyzstan allocated about $54m (2.5 billion KGS) – a 10% increase over 2011 – for border security, according to the Kyrgyz State Border Service.

Although the State Border Service press office wasn’t able to comment how much the proposed improvements would cost, Bekov said the budget should be about three times higher than it is.

Such investment, especially when it comes to recruiting, training and compensating border guards, is critical, analysts say.

"A border guard officer receives two or three times less than the same-ranking officer in the national security agencies," Mamytov said, acknowledging the need for higher salaries.

Border guards at remote crossings currently receive 4,700-7,100 KGS (US $100-150) per month. If that grew to 14,200-18,800 KGS (US $300-400), quick results would follow, security analyst Arif Bekov told Central Asia Online.

"If we pay our border guards a decent salary, they will work harder to stop drug dealers and other smugglers," Bekov said.

Higher salaries could lure better-qualified people to the profession, for example, and could help reduce the incidence of bribery, he said, explaining that, when someone is caught in a bribery scheme, the excuse often given is that the person needed to supplement his earnings.

Better communication between checkpoints would also improve protection, he said.

"In Kazakhstan, the attack ... on the Gornyi outpost was possible because of poor communications between the checkpoints," Bekov said, referring to the May mass murder of 14 border guards and a forest ranger on the Kazakhstani-Chinese border. "Terrorists can take advantage of this at any time."

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