Kazakhstan to establish Central Asian anti-trans-national crime hub
ASTANA -- Kazakhstan's capital plans to be host to a Central Asian hub for fighting trans-national crime, terrorism and other global threats.
General Prosecutor Zhakip Assanov and UN Under-Secretary-General Yury Fedotov signed a memorandum of understanding April 11 in Vienna on fighting trans-national threats.
During that meeting, Kazakhstani officials stated their plan to build a regional hub in Astana to counter global threats. The hub -- a centre for various countries' security officials to learn about and discuss such threats -- is expected to open in 2020.
"This is a momentous occasion for us," said Fedotov at the signing, according to the General Prosecutor's Office. "We are grateful to Kazakhstan for its support."
The idea of creating a regional hub came from the law enforcement academy operated by the General Prosecutor's Office, Yernur Uali, the academy spokesman, told Caravanserai.
The hub will begin working full scale in 2020, he added, citing "Astana's strategic position ... at the crossroads of Europe and Asia" and corresponding vulnerability as reasons to place the hub there.
About a tenth of Afghan drugs passing through Kazakhstan, en route to Europe and elsewhere, stays in Kazakhstan for domestic consumption, he said.
"Each year, Kazakhstan seizes up to 30 tonnes of drugs," said Uali.
"The hub is not being created because Kazakhstan is the epicentre of such problems, but because the country is striving for deeper regional co-operation," Rustam Burnashev, a political scientist from Almaty, told Caravanserai.
Other Central Asian countries have shown various levels of willingness to co-operate, with Kyrgyzstan the most eager, he said.
"For now, we don't know if Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are as interested, but it's doubtful they'll be against it," he said.
The country's existing IT infrastructure is capable of serving the hub's technological demands, predicted Almaty IT specialist Jandos Orazbek.
"The most important thing is to have fiber optic cable and a satellite connection," he told Caravanserai. "Generally speaking, the military installs [the necessary] redundancies."
A number of countries and international organisations, including the UN, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Great Britain have shown interest in the project, Uali said.
''They are prepared to send the best experts and teachers in the designated fields of knowledge and to help us [incorporate] the best practises and latest teaching techniques," he said.
"The hub will train security officials not only from Kazakhstan but also from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and eventually Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Uali.
Cost is not a problem, with international organisations like the UN agreeing to fund the project, he added.
The political support that the UN and OSCE are providing for the future hub "is quite natural", said Burmashev. "Both organisations are interested in developing regional initiatives [fighting] extremism and terrorism."
Members of the general public are hailing the creation of the hub.
Building it is a good idea, Zaure Ashimova of Shymkent told Caravanserai.
"Kazakhstan needs to enrich its experience fighting weapon and drug trafficking and terrorism," she said.
Muratbek Isabayev of Astana will be glad to see a counter-terrorism hub in his own town, he said.
"In July 2016, a terrorist attacked a police station in Almaty and then ran amok in the city, shooting and killing people," he said. "If security officials come to ... receive training in our city, it'll protect our people from such attacks."