Security

Kazakhstan bolsters armed forces, border troops to strengthen its frontier

By Aydar Ashimov

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Kazakh pilots land after intercepting a mock enemy aircraft in East Kazakhstan Province on September 20. [Kazakh Ministry of Defence]

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) and the armed forces are taking steps to make the nation's borders impenetrable to terrorists and ward off threats to the country's sovereignty.

In December, the KNB posted an interview with Maj. Gen. Darkhan Dilmanov, director of its Border Service, on its YouTube channel.

Dilmanov spoke of extremist and terrorist organisations in Afghanistan and an acute need for Kazakhstan to prepare for various adverse scenarios and ensure border security.

"Measures have been taken to strengthen security -- additional border guards have been deployed; monitoring of the security of ammunition and weapons at border outposts has been strengthened. We will not permit an unpunished attack or border violation," said Dilmanov.

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Kazakh Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev (right) is pictured during a visit on September 7 to the Aktobe garrison. [Kazakh Defence Ministry.]

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The "Memory is Eternal" memorial, established on December 13 in memory of border guards who have died while performing their military duty, can be seen in Nur-Sultan on December 13. [Kazakh Ministry of Defence]

Airborne assault units, which are reserve forces in case of border violations by terrorist groups or other external aggression, have been strengthened, he added.

"We received substantial financial support from the government, which allowed us to create an effective, high-tech system of obstacles to prevent the violation of the border," said Dilmanov.

The KNB enforces border security in co-operation with the National Guard and the Ministry of Defence, he noted.

Preparations under way

Military training exercises and inspections are also improving Kazakhstan's capabilities.

On September 20, Kazakhstan conducted drills to intercept a mock enemy aircraft that violated the border.

In the scenario, 30 front-line Kazakh aircraft secured the airspace and discovered an enemy aircraft. The Kazakh pilots intercepted the aircraft and forced it to land on an airfield.

During the exercises, the pilots completed combat training missions to destroy ground targets using guided and unguided missiles and bombs.

Meanwhile, on September 7, Kazakh Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev visited the Aktobe Garrison, whose main task is to protect the border between Kazakhstan and Russia. He inspected the headquarters, storage facilities, soldiers' barracks and military vehicle fleet, after which he gave instructions to strengthen the garrison.

"The Aktobe Garrison has motorised rifle, artillery, tank, and reconnaissance and assault units, whose main tasks are to strengthen the border in the event of an external threat, help eliminate illegal fighting units, carry out special operations and protect the country's sovereignty," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"Kazakhstan is properly assessing potential risks. It cannot be said that we are underestimating them," said Shymkent-based political scientist Rauan Dautaliyev.

"The main threat comes from the country's southern borders because of Afghanistan's proximity, but hypothetically external aggression on other parts of the border cannot be ruled out," he said.

Since 2018, the border force's combat effectiveness has been continuously strengthened by "increasing the contingent of border guards, training them and improving their equipment", said Dautaliyev.

"Particular attention is paid to migration flows, because there may be terrorists and propagandists from radical ... movements pretending to be migrants. Additionally, work is under way to curb the departure of Kazakhs who want to join the banned 'Islamic State' (IS)," said Dautaliyev.

OSCE contribution

Kazakhstan's efforts come amid backing by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for the KNB's border troops.

On November 26-28, the OSCE conducted training in Aktau for Kazakh border guards on countering trans-national crime and identifying foreign terrorist militants, according to the OSCE.

The lessons were conducted by international specialists from Georgia, Interpol and the OSCE's Transnational Threats Department.

On November 4-8, the OSCE and the US embassy in Kazakhstan organised a train-the-trainer course for instructors on identification of forged documents and on identification techniques. Twenty officers of the Kazakh Border Service attended.

The training included presentations by specialists from the Austrian Interior Ministry.

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I can't understand who we are defending ourselves from

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The Kazakhs are brave and resourceful. They quickly learn new jobs, and have highly developed skills of how to rule over other people. They are the region's leaders, and its future superpower.

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