2018-02-01 | Politics

Mirziyoyev continues reform of national security agency

Caravanserai

Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has sacked Rustam Inoyatov, chief of the National Security Service.

In a four-hour speech to lawmakers, diplomats and journalists last December 22, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said the National Security Service (SNB) was still working based on a government mandate passed 26 years ago. [Uzbekistani presidential press office]

TASHKENT -- With the replacement of the long-time chief of Uzbekistan's National Security Service (SNB), analysts are predicting "big changes" in how the country's national intelligence agency will operate.

Mirziyoyev dismissed Rustam Inoyatov, 73, who had led the agency since 1995, state newspaper Halk Sozi reported Wednesday (January 31).

Ikhtiyor Abdullayev, a former chief prosecutor, replaced him.

"The mandate of the [SNB] will be downsized," said Kamoliddin Rabbimov, an independent analyst based in France, commenting on recent changes to the SNB.

"Now there will be big changes," he told AFP in emailed comments.

Agency overhaul

Mirziyoyev's latest move is not the first aimed at revamping the SNB.

In a four-hour speech to lawmakers, diplomats and journalists December 22, Mirziyoyev said the SNB was still working based on an outdated government mandate passed 26 years ago.

The outmoded security service needs an overhaul to be "be on guard for our external and internal security", he said.

Analysts saw the marathon address, and another speech in January where he promised to remove internal security service agents from Uzbekistan's embassies abroad, as paving the way for a showdown with Inoyatov.

Reducing influence on politics

The dismissal of Inoyatov will see Mirziyoyev firmly in control of Uzbekistan and scale back the SNB's influence over Uzbekistani politics, according to Rabbimov.

Inoyatov was widely viewed as one of the country's most powerful leaders when Mirziyoyev's predecessor, Islam Karimov, died of a reported stroke in 2016.

Mirziyoyev, 60, served as Karimov's prime minister for 13 years and emerged as Uzbekistan's new leader quickly after the death of the strongman whose rule of almost three decades began during the late Soviet era.

Since becoming president in late 2016, Mirziyoyev has rolled back some of Karimov's most excessive and unpopular authoritarian policies.

Inoyatov remained powerful in the immediate aftermath of Karimov's death but appeared to grow isolated as Mirziyoyev moved to consolidate his power and appointed allies to head the key Defence and Interior ministries last year.

The Interior Ministry's mandate also grew to take on a unit formerly part of the SNB.

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