ASTANA -- A number of exercises this year are keeping Kazakhstan's Border Service in a state of constant readiness against various threats.
From July 20 to 25, Border Service troops sharpened their skills in the Batys (Western) 2016 exercise.
It took place along the border with Uzbekistan.
"Extremism and terrorism ... have turned into one of the most dangerous problems of modern times," the Border Service said in a statement. "All of the Border Service branches were involved in these manoeuvres ... including aircraft and ships."
The main purpose of the drill was to test the troops' readiness to fight terrorist groups.
"The exercises ran in three stages," Caravanserai learned from the Border Service press office. "The first stage tested troops' response to the threat of a conflict on the southwestern border. The second stage tested their ... ability to identify and destroy hypothetical terrorist groups. The final stage included live-fire exercises."
Border Service Director and Maj. Gen. Darkhan Dilmanov supervised the drills, which brought in units of the National Guard and other Kazakhstani forces.
Fighting hypothetical terrorists
To defeat the hypothetical terrorists in the exercise, Border Service troops deployed with ships and helicopters along the Caspian Sea. They reinforced border check-points on land with armoured vehicles.
The troops in the exercise faced an additional challenge in the scenario -- dealing with an influx of refugees, some of whom had become radicalised by militant propaganda and had to be sorted out.
The exercise concluded in triumph, as the Border Service, supported by air power, defeated the enemy and protected the border's integrity.
The Border Service earned a grade of "excellent" in all stages of the joint exercise, Dilmanov said, according to the Border Service press office. "They met all their goals."
OSCE trains Kazakh border guards too
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is also helping Kazakhstani border troops improve their skills.
"In May and June, the OSCE held a series of training sessions for Border Service officers ... on document security," a source at the OSCE Programme Office in Astana told Caravanserai.
From June 22-24 in Almaty, border guards from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan learned about document security and techniques for profiling extremists. Participants became acquainted with both genuine and phony travel documents from various countries.
"In order to protect a country's borders, it is crucial to know what verification methods are used in all travel documents and the common features of forged documents," Colin McCullough, political officer at the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, said, according to an OSCE statement. "This is best done through consistent familiarisation on relevant technology and regular exchange of information and experience with other relevant authorities."
"The exchange of information and experience in identifying forged documents enables the growth of the professionalism of all participants in this seminar," Gunta Laganovska, a seminar trainer and chief of the Examination Service of the Latvian State Border Service, said, according to the OSCE. "The train-the-trainers approach allows for the possibility to transfer new skills to a large number of border guards where they work."
Learning about electronic passports
The OSCE conducted another training event in Astana June 1-2, one aimed at stopping terrorists from crossing borders.
Kazakhstani migration and border personnel learned about the International Civil Aviation Organisation Public Key Directory (ICAO PKD), which enables "the effective validation of electronic security features stored in biometric passports", the OSCE said in a statement.
"Membership in the ICAO PKD is a proactive approach in fighting international terrorism and preventing the cross-border movement of terrorists because it allows for a fast and effective multilateral validation that an ePassport is genuine," the OSCE said.