https://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2019/12/06/feature-02
| Security

Kazakh, US officials discuss strategic partnership in Washington

Caravanserai

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Deputy Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev (centre right) and US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells (centre left) pose for a picture as they lead talks on the US-Kazakhstan Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD) December 4 in Washington. [Kazakh Foreign Ministry]

WASHINGTON, DC -- Kazakh and US officials Wednesday (December 4) convened in Washington to discuss their country's burgeoning strategic partnership, both governments said in statements.

Deputy Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev and US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells led the talks on the US-Kazakhstan Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD), according to the US State Department.

Established two years ago, the ESPD provides an annual forum for the countries to discuss co-operation on diverse issues.

Success of Operation Jusan

The State Department hailed Kazakhstan's successes in counter-terrorism and in "the repatriation and reintegration of nearly 600 Kazakh citizens from Syria", a reference to Operation Jusan (Bitter Wormwood).

Kazakh security forces brought back the radicalised Kazakhs in a series of flights throughout 2019.

Most of them -- predominantly women and children -- are undergoing rehabilitation throughout Kazakhstan, but 15 returnees have been convicted of and another 14 are on trial in connection with charges of joining "Islamic State" (IS).

During an October visit to Nur-Sultan, US State Department Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism and Ambassador Nathan A. Sales praised "Kazakhstan's groundbreaking work rehabilitating and reintegrating returnees".

Sales noted the role of medics and psychologists in helping the repatriated Kazakhs recover from traumas they suffered in Syria.

"We see that this is a very holistic approach that the rest of the world can take as a foundation," said Sales at the time.

The delegations December 4 additionally discussed repatriating radicalised Kazakhs from Iraq -- as Operation Jusan only involved Syria -- as well as fighting drug trafficking and ensuring cyber-security, according to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

Working together on many fronts

The officials in Washington also discussed collaboration in aviation, trade, cultural exchanges and education, among other matters, according to both governments.

The delegations noted the need for their businesses to co-operate on diversifying the Kazakh economy, said the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.

Co-operation between Kazakhstan and the United States extends to a great variety of sectors.

In June, Kazakhstan hosted Operation Steppe Eagle 19, a multi-national exercise that brought in troops from Great Britain, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the United States. Steppe Eagle has taken place annually since 2003.

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