By Alexander Bogatik
National Security Committee (KNB) special forces undergo training in Almaty Province in April 2016. [KNB press office]
ASTANA -- Kazakhstan is taking steps to become Central Asia's hub for regional security, and is leading efforts against extremism and terrorism.
On June 9, UN Secretary-General António Guterres conferred with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana on a number of security issues.
Guterres hailed Kazakhstan for working to "advance the world order, preventing terrorism and promoting security" in its role as a two-year member of the UN Security Council, according to 24.kz.
One day earlier, June 8, the Kazakhstani delegation to the Security Council participated in a session on fighting the "Islamic State" (IS), al-Qaeda and affiliated individuals, groups and organisations, according to the Foreign Ministry.
At the session, Barlybay Sadykov, Kazakhstan's first deputy permanent representative to the UN, identified various threats posed by terrorist groups, according to a UN summary.
They include "the illegal transport of hydrocarbons, as well as the smuggling of artefacts and other valuables from Syria and Iraq" and "false propaganda utilising sophisticated digital technologies and social media", he warned, according to the UN.
Kazakhstan's work with the UN is expanding in both New York and Almaty.
In January 2018, Kazakhstan will be president of the Security Council -- a title that rotates monthly among the council's members.
Meanwhile, it intends to create a regional UN security-focused hub in Almaty, expected to open in 2020.
That hub "will help grasp many problems that the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan face", said Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vasilenko in May, according to Khabar.kz.
Its priorities will include "humanitarian aid and post-conflict rehabilitation in Afghanistan", he added.
Security Council member states will be sending officials in July to Kazakhstan to discuss the creation of the hub, he said.
"Various UN agencies" will be joining the hub, Taraz political scientist Ruslan Seksebayev told Caravanserai.
The planned hub "is an entirely timely step, given that the primary threat to Central Asian states in the near future will ... come from [Afghanistan]", Almaty-based theologian and writer Ali Apsheroni told Caravanserai.
At the June 8 Security Council session, Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev announced Astana's $300,000 (96.1 million KZT) contribution to the UN's Counter-Terrorism Trust Fund, according to statements by the UN and the Foreign Ministry.
"Kazakhstan has become the first country in the region to donate to the programme, providing more than 10% of the project's financing," according to the ministry.
"The funds will be used to support the Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action for the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia", said the UN in a statement.
At the session, Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, praised Kazakhstan for "countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism" and for "promoting inter-cultural tolerance and harmony".
Kazakhstan's financial contribution "meets a commitment that it made earlier", Uralsk political scientist Yevgeniy Kryuchkov told Caravanserai.
The donation will help fund a strategy of "eliminating the causes and environments giving rise to terrorism" and "cutting off terror financing", he added.
With the 'Islamic State' on the verge of defeat, Kazakhstanis who joined the group are likely to begin returning home, where they will face anti-terrorism measures.
Popular support in Central Asia for Islamist insurgencies in the Middle East and beyond is waning.