Uzbek army to protect country from extremists

By Maksim Yeniseyev

Uzbekistani troops perform exercises in Chirchik, Tashkent Province, in the winter of 2014. [Photograph courtesy of Defence Ministry]

Uzbekistani troops perform exercises in Chirchik, Tashkent Province, in the winter of 2014. [Photograph courtesy of Defence Ministry]

TASHKENT -- The effort comes as hundreds of radicalised Uzbekistanis fight in Syria and Iraq.

The training includes raising awareness among the troops. Such a meeting took place in a Bukhara-based unit August 30.

"Increasingly frequent incitements by extremists in neighbouring countries require us to be even more alert," Lt. Col. Shukhrat Zoyirov, the Bukhara military prosecutor, said during the meeting, according to the Defence Ministry newspaper Vatanparvar. "The most important task of the military is to bar [extremists] from breaching our border."

"Criminals are using pseudo-religious ideas to attract immature and inexperienced youth into their ranks," he continued. "Therefore ... wide-scale awareness-raising work among youth takes on particular significance."

Uzbekistani officers directly communicate to youth as well.

"On August 28 in Urgut District, Samarkand Province, border troops met with youth," Samarkand Herald reporter Shukhrat Anorov told Caravanserai. "Ergash Ruziboyev, a representative of the border troops, talked about how necessary it is to step up vigilance against ideological incitements."

"Speakers from the Interior Ministry [MVD] and a mahalla [neighbourhood association] committee discussed the negative impact of these ... ideas on minors," Anorov added.

Training troops

The army today is capable of fighting off extremists, authorities say.

"The combat readiness of our armed forces allows us to confront any of our country's security challenges," Khomijon Dadaboyev, director of the Uzbekistani Armed Forces Academy, said in a TV interview with UzReport August 28. That academy trains officers already in the armed forces.

The country has four well-equipped military academies, including the Tashkent Military Command School (TMCS), and two dedicated departments, one at the Tashkent University of Information Technologies and the other at the Tashkent Medical Academy, for Uzbekistanis who have just finished high school.

On August 31, one day before Independence Day, freshmen at the country's military academies and the two dedicated military departments took the military oath of allegiance.

"In TMCS, students have auditoriums for computer simulation, e-learning facilities and multi-media laboratories," Shavkat Normatov, Defence Ministry chief of general staff, said in his speech to TMCS freshmen August 31, according to the Uzbekistan National News Agency.

Uzekistani authorities do not disclose the enrollments at military academies or the number of applications for admission, but applicants consider the academies prestigious.

"Getting into a military school like TMCS is very difficult," Sardor Zahkidov, a student at the National University of Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai. "People come here from all over the country ... Becoming an officer is very prestigious ... It is a profession for life."

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