The Future of the Siloviks under Tokayev

A significant strengthening of those enforcement structures that may be employed to suppress the massive civil protests in the future is one of the important albeit under-the-public-radar consequences of the processes triggered by the January «explosion» of the protest sentiments in Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, the related activities of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and his team are yet to be noticed by the public. The international observers concerned about the tragic events in Kazakhstan do not see them, either. And it is quite clear why. 

Firstly, not only have the internal political developments in Kazakstan accelerated in a dramatic way but they have become more complex and unpredictable.

Secondly, the number of the events demanding attention and (often) response has increased dramatically. 

Thirdly, the massive-scale violent repressions are considered the first priority.

Meanwhile, judging by the real events and not what has been said in public, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is aiming to solve the following connected tasks in a most speedy fashion -

first, to quiet the country and restore the proverbial internal political stability,

second, to prevent the appearance of new threats for the regime and, if such a threat does materialise, to suppress the protests as soon as possible regardless of the costs. 

Why do we think so? Because, according to the official information and to our insiders, Akorda is not simply reforming the enforcement structures (for instance, the National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan). In it also significantly increasing the number of the siloviks who can not only carry a weapon but are (will be) prepared to use it against civilians. 

We at believe that, after the Tokayev reforms, the «anti-protest» enforcement block will consist of the following -

a) the agency responsible for national security including counter-intelligence, antiterrorist and anti-dissident protection;

b) the Ministry of Interior and the National Guard operating under its aegis;

c) the Ministry of Defence, the military intelligence and the newly created Special Operations Forces operating under its aegis.

We deliberately use the word «agency» since there is a good chance that, after the arrest of Karim Masimov and his henchmen on charge of high treason, the National Security Committee may be renamed into, say, «Agency».

This agency, even if it does keep the existing name, is not going to be the same National Security Committee as before. And not only because it is, according to the press-release, «undergoing a reformatting of its activities» on the order of the Kazakh President.

According to our insiders, the agency is in chaos. Particularly it is true of the services whose chiefs have been dismissed (not to mention arrested). It is quite understandable — the dismissal and the arrest of the former NSC chief and the dismissal of the four deputy chief (five, actually, considering Murat Nurtleu’s return to the Presidential Administration) could not but make most NSC officers feel uncertain about the future.

Add to this the fact that the reformatting of the agency is being conducted by the «aliens» from the State Security Service (a structure tightly connected with the NSC but carrying out different tasks and demanding different set of qualifications from its personnel including the leaders).

Apart from that, the NSC RK has always had an abundance of the «back bones» — the people who do nothing and get by with it. So, it looks like it will take some time for the once key secret service of the country to adjust to the new demands of the second President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It looks like Kassym-Jomart Tokayev does realise it and, consequently, has ordered the military intelligence to start operating inside the country which looks more than peculiar for the state not in military conflict with anyone. He has also established the Special Operations Forces under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence. This new structure is likely to become the major «trump card» of the Kazakh authoritarian political system and the «super-residential» vertical for the next decade.

At this point, we do not have the data on how many military personnel the new structure will have. Judging from Presidential Decree 779 of January 19, 2022, it will not have enough to be called «a type of armed forces», yet it will be bigger than «a branch of armed forces».

Based on the information on how the National Guard operates and where its troops are located as well as given the task set before the Special Operations Forces (participating in antiterrorist operations and combatting illegal militia groups), we may assume that the new structure will consist of 8-12 thousand people. 

Of course, a lot will depend on how quickly the Ministry of Defence will be able to form the new troops and equip them to scale with personnel and commanding officers as well as whether it would be willing to sacrifice its airborne troops to implement the President’s orders.

As for the structure of the Special Operations Forces, it is already determined. Apart from the staff and the auxiliary troops, it will probably have five separate regiments or brigades located near Almaty, Nur-Sultan and one of the regional centres in the South, West and East Kazakhstan. Probably in the places from where it would be easier to shift forces.

We at believe that the appearance of such a specific «black sheep» in the family of the Kazakh military forces poses quite a big threat. And not only for those involved in the future protests.

 The thing is that the Special Operations Forces will be fundamentally different from the existing police structures. Contrary to the personnel of the local police departments, most of its employees are probably not going to be locals. For Kazakhstan, with its strong familial connections and a rather patriarchal society, it is crucial since the threat of being held responsible for your actions by your family and friends is no less significant than the orders or restrictions on the part of your bosses.

 Apart from that (quoting), «the Special Operations Forces aim to solve the special tasks as part of ensuring the defence capacity and the military security of the country, among other things, by participating in antiterrorist operations and combatting illegal militia groups».

This means that they will be using firearms and military equipment far more actively than the local police departments since their task lies in armed combat. In other words, if the events of January 2022 are to be repeated, the number of the victims will consist not of hundreds but thousands. 

Finally, a few words about the Ministry of Interior and the National Guard operating under its aegis.

Judging by the fact that Minister of Interior Erlan Turgumbayev has retained his position after the January «explosion» of the protest sentiments in the country (he is the only top officer in the enforcement structures who has been able to do so) while the reshuffles among the agency’s leaders have not been as significant as in the NSC RK, this agency is rather up to Tokayev’s standards.

 Among other things, it might be due to the fact that, with the massive-scale repressions and violence towards the arrested, the police shows to the citizens what to expect if they stand up against the authorities.


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