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Homeland Security

Countering Global Terrorism: Developing the Antiterrorist Capabilities of the Central Asian Militaries

Countering Global Terrorism: Developing the Antiterrorist Capabilities of the Central Asian Militaries - Cover

Authored by Mr. Roger N. McDermott.

February 2004

46 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author offers a framework for improving the antiterrorist capabilities of the Central Asian militaries, including increased and focused military training with a special emphasis on Special Forces units. The training should take place within a regional train and equip program to increase effectiveness and efficiency. But, he argues, all assistance to the Central Asian states must complement broader diplomatic efforts to promote social, economic, and political reform.


Political: U.S. military and security engagement programs in the Central Asian region must complement Washington’s broader diplomatic efforts to promote democratic, social, economic, and political reform programs; and these ought to be part of a long-term drive toward promoting greater stability and avoiding the risk of failing states slipping further into trouble. The United States must reassure its partners in the region, particularly those assisting in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), that they will not be abandoned at a later date, giving a more long-term commitment to assisting the development of their young independent states, helping them move towards democracy, strengthening them economically, and ensuring the avoidance of a security vacuum in the region. They also need to be reassured that the security situation in Afghanistan will settle, and that “warlordism” and terrorism training camps will not again flourish there and serve as a training ground for many of the terrorist groups that threaten to infest the region.

In pursuing its security strengthening and assistance programs in the region, the United States should, directly or through NATO (which has specific mechanisms to that effect), underscore the common nature of the threat to each of the regional actors and seek to encourage deeper and more widespread sharing of intelligence within Central Asia. Furthermore, developing the antiterrorist capabilities of these states still further should be conditional upon closer regional cooperation and security integration; weak and isolated states must avoid pursuing “islands of security,” rather they must join together in a new spirit of security cooperation to promote long-term stability in Central Asia. This must be done with finesse in a region where there are two rival states, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, vying for dominance and the other three, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, are essentially failing states. Clearly, the latter three states will see benefit in security cooperation, but the real challenge will be to develop a political and military base to the assistance program that will attract the stronger states. Policymakers must work equally strenuously to foster political and social progress within the region to deprive radical groups of potential local popular support, based upon social injustice, human rights abuses, and poverty. Security policymakers must also pay attention equally to emerging threats within Central Asia, such as the Islamist Hizbut-Tahrir (Islamic Party of Liberation), working with its partners in the region on preventing their full emergence, besides concentrating on reducing or countering more pressing or immediate threats, such as the remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

Military training: The conventional force capability of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is far superior to that of their neighbors, and this situation will not change in the foreseeable future. U.S. training and broader assistance efforts should avoid contributing to the military rivalry between these two states. These future Central Asian military assistance programs need to focus on two threat parameters: counterterrorism and peacekeeping operations. There cannot be a cookie cutter approach to the development of these programs, as the effort must recognize the dramatic differences in the capabilities and needs of each of the state’s military and security forces. These two missions also require specialized skills, training, and equipment sets that are not generally standard in a conventional force. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) should train and accompany their Central Asian counterparts on military exercises and operations, and attempt to train their leaders differently; in particular, leading them to carefully examine the uses of SOF in modern warfare. Improved in-country training, utilizing Mobile Training teams (MTTs) for the delivery of whole unit training that addresses the needs of developing an effective NCO corps that will in turn train their rank and file, will encourage individual initiative and help further undermine the old Soviet style top-down management system.

U.S. training should encompass all the SOF type units from the various security agencies responsible for securing the country’s border and counterterrorist operations. In many cases the military will not have the lead in such operations, but will be supporting another agency. The goal is to train these agencies together to promote greater operational integration.

More training should be structured for the long term, including help creating special warfare centers, mountain warfare/light infantry centers, mountain warfare leaders, common operational skills, and an interagency communications structure to facilitate closer integration between the military and other security agencies. Future trainers within each state then will have the necessary skills and education to carry out effective training without overseas assistance. Clearly, not all of these states can afford developments of such centers; a possible solution would be regional centers fostering closer cooperation among the states.

Military Equipment: Military equipment supplied to the Central Asian militaries should be targeted carefully towards achieving improved defensive and offensive capabilities; that will entail basic protective kit, communications, tactical intelligence, and troop mobility. Such equipment would include light-weight and functional body armor capable of giving adequate protection against a 7.62mm round; body armor to protect against fragmentation weapons; gas masks; protective head gear; night vision equipment; thermal sights; modern sniper weapons; communication equipment at operational and tactical level; modern individual and crew-served weapons with sufficient quantities of ammunition to train with them; Global Position System (GPS); mobile sensors; troop carriers; armored mobile vehicles such as the High-Mobility, Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Light Armored Vehicle (LAV); and helicopters for greater small unit mobility. A greater effort should be made to ensure maximum overlap between equipment given to these militaries and that utilized in military-to-military training.

Devising a Central Asia Train and Equip Program (CATEP): U.S. political decisionmakers and military planners are faced with growing challenges developing the antiterrorist capabilities of the Central Asian militaries. Consistent with U.S. policy in the Caucasus, the United States should devise a systemic and coordinated train and equip program in Central Asia. A CATEP would require flexibility both at the planning and implementation stages, allowing for adaptation to the particular needs of each participating state as well as the constructive participation from the regional militaries themselves. The scope and cost of such a program suggests the need to develop a multinational approach, building on the NATO Secretary General’s efforts to enhance the alliance’s relations with the states in Central Asia. A NATO based supporting structure should be formed to strengthen the program, utilizing the experience of member states and partners in Partnership for Peace (PfP). Thus, the burden of the assistance program would be shared. There should be political linkage between investing in such a program and encouraging the Central Asian militaries to cooperate more closely; this could be especially beneficial in fostering a longer-term regional approach to security. A CATEP could be organized around regional training centers in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. U.S. DoD officials should work closely with the regional MODs to assist in producing workable blueprints for continued training after U.S. military advisors have completed their assigned tasks. Concurrently, U.S. policy must promote the formation of elite units within the region, capable of meeting the future and evolving security needs of the 21st century. As the distinction between war and peace has blurred as a consequence of the post 9/11 security environment, a CATEP should cultivate enhanced levels of interagency cooperation. Evaluating the cost of such programs should be weighed against the cost of a continued open-ended risk of having to deploy U.S. forces in support of regional partners: these states seek to fight terrorism themselves, and not to depend on U.S. power projection in a crisis.

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