On the NSC Power Landscape

Ironically, it was the National Security Committee that became the first governmental structure that had fallen out of favour with Akorda and the Library due to the January “explosion” of the protest sentiments in the country. In other words, the key agency whose purpose is to fight external and internal enemies of the regime has either missed the buss completely or not taken sufficient care of the situation.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (acting upon Nursultan Nazarbayev’s approval as we at KZ.expert believe) has decided (or dared) to remake the agency’s leadership in a cardinal way.

So, back on January 5, 2022, on the day the state of emergency was declared, the NSC got a new First Deputy Chief, Murat Nurtleu. He used to be deputy chairman of the presidential administration and, judging by his biography, was very close with Mr. Tokayev.

The next day, January 6, 2022, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev did the following -

a) dismissed the NSC Chief Karim Masimov and replaced him with Ermek Sagimbayev;

b) fired Anuar Sadykulov from the post of Deputy Chief of the NSC – the Head of Special Service “A” and replaced him with Berik Kunanbayev.

On January 9, 2022, the rapid remade of the NSC leadership continued – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dismissed Deputy Chief Marat Osipov and Deputy Chief Daulet Ergozhin and appointed Bakytbek Koszhanov and Askar Amerkhanov instead.

So, within the scope of five days, the NSC got a new chief and three deputy chiefs as well as one more first deputy. Frankly, we do not recall that Akorda has ever acted so quickly and decisively in regard to the personnel matters.

For the time being, we will leave the issue of the legality of the orders and decrees issued by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The thing is - we highly doubt that the Kazakh Security Council had pre-approved the said personnel orders; it looks like, after Nursultan Nazarbayev abdicated his lifelong leadership there, they simply ignored this formality due to the lack of time.

Also, we are not going to touch upon the subject of why, on the day of his dismissal, Karim Masimov was arrested by his former colleagues and sent to the pre-trial detention centre charged with high treason and why two of his former deputies, Daulet Ergozhin and Anuar Sadykulov joined him there (the fact of their arrest has been officially confirmed). 

So, we will focus on the current power landscape in the leadership of Kazakhstan’s main security service.

As of the morning of January 13, 2022, the NSC Chief Ermek Sagimbayev had two first deputies, Samat Abish and Murat Nurtleu.

Also, he had five deputies – Nurgali Bilisbekov, Marat Kolkobayev, Berik Kunanbayev, Gabit Bayzhanov and Darkhan Dilmanov.

The last two are not to be considered. Firstly, because they de-facto chair separate agencies: Gabit Bayzhanov – the foreign intelligence service, Darkhan Dilmanov – the border troops. Secondly, both have been occupying their posts for quite long a time and have made their careers in the structures they chair. For these reasons, we believe we may assume that they rather prefer to be “neutral” than risk their heads for anyone – be it Nursultan Nazarbayev or Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

So, we are left with the NSC Chief Ermek Sagimbayev, his two first deputies Samat Abish and Murat Nurtleu, three deputies Nurgali Bilisbekov, Marat Kolkobayev and Berik Kunanbayev.

We at KZ.expert believe that since the two first NSC deputy chiefs are the people whose loyalty to Nursultan Nazarbayev (Samat Abish) and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Murat Nurtleu) is indisputable, both of the presidents (the Elbasy and his successor) trust the NSC Chief Ermek Sagimbayev only to a certain extent.

Or, to the contrary, they trust him completely. But, just in case, they chose to assign some supervisors to look after him. We do not see any other explanation for appointing the second first deputy.

As for the three regular deputies, they look like professional managers, nothing more.

For instance, Nurgali Bilisbekov was first appointed the deputy chief of the NSC back in 2007 and had worked in this capacity up until 2009; the second time he became the NSC deputy chief was in 2013.

Marat Kolkobayev was appointed the NSC deputy chief the same year.

Berik Kunanbayev is the only newcomer in this troika. You will recall that he became the deputy chief of the NSC on January 6, 2022, on the same day when Ermek Sagimbayev was appointed the head of the agency. Given that the latter, according to his brief bio, grew up inside the agency he was appointed to chair, he could also be regarded as a professional.

So, what have we got?

After Kassym-Jomart Tokaeyv has remade the leadership of Kazakhstan’s main secret service in so decisive a fashion, the agency retains the balance of power desired by Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In other words, the agency is now chaired by a person whom the Elbasy and his successor trust; however, people loyal to them both are supervising this person. Meanwhile, the day-to-day tasks are performed by professionals, there is no way one can do without them.

And after this some claim that the second President of Kazakhstan has grown out of control of his predecessor and is acting independently?


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