Located in a region of low strategic importance and surrounded
by nations with major concerns in other directions, Kyrgyzstan
did not make developing its own armed forces a high priority after
separation from the Soviet Union. The long-standing civil war
in nearby Tajikistan, however, has forced reevaluation of that
conservative position. Internal security has been a major concern
because of rampant crime and a well-developed narcotics industry.
In the early 1990s, Kyrgyzstan began to build a small armed force
based on the military doctrine that Russia will remain chief guarantor
of Kyrgyzstan's national security interests. The only operational
branch of the armed forces is the ground forces.
Development of Military Policy
Kyrgyzstan made its first moves toward a national military force
in September 1991, immediately after declaring independence, by
drawing up plans to create a national guard. However, events overtook
that plan, which was never realized. In the early months of independence,
President Akayev was an avid supporter of a proposed "unified
army" of the CIS, which would replace the former Soviet army.
Those plans collapsed when Russia announced that it would not
finance CIS troops. In April 1992, Kyrgyzstan formed a State Committee
for Defense Affairs, and in June the republic took control of
all troops on its soil (meaning remaining units of the former
Soviet army). At that time, about 15,000 former Soviet soldiers
of unknown ethnic identity remained in Kyrgyzstan.
Although the Kyrgyzstani government did not demand a new oath
of service until after adoption of the Law on Military Service
(the first draft of which in 1992 was copied so hastily from Soviet
law that it included provisions for a navy), the majority of the
officer corps (mostly Russian) refused to serve in a Kyrgyzstani
army, and since that time many Russian officers have sought repatriation
to Russia. A more informal outflow of draftees already had been
underway before Kyrgyzstan's independence. According to one estimate,
as many as 6,000 Russians deserted from duty in Kyrgyzstan, although
that loss was partially offset by the return of almost 2,000 Kyrgyz
who had been serving in the Soviet army outside their republic.
According to reports, in 1993 between 3,000 and 4,000 non-Kyr
gyz soldiers, mostly Russians, remained in the republic.
In the early days of independence, Kyrgyzstani authorities spoke
of doing without an army entirely. That idea since has been replaced
by plans to create a standing conscripted army of about 5,000
troops, with reserves of two to three times that number. The question
of who would command these troops has been very troublesome. Russian
officers continued leaving Kyrgyzstan through 1993 because of
low pay and poor living conditions, and in 1994 Moscow was officially
encouraging this exodus. To stem the out-migration, agreements
signed in 1994 by Bishkek and Moscow obligate Kyrgyzstan to pay
housing and relocation costs for Russian officers who agree to
serve in the Kyrgyzstani army until 1999.
In 1994 Kyrgyzstan agreed to permit border troops of the Russian
Army to assume the task of guarding Kyrgyzstan's border with China.
This agreement followed Russia's complaints that continuing desertions
by Kyrgyzstani border troops were leaving the former Soviet border--which
Russia continues to argue is its proper border--essentially unguarded.
Akayev has periodically pushed for even more Russian military
presence in the republic, hinting broadly that if Russia is not
interested in resuming control of the Soviet airbases in the republic,
perhaps other powers, such as the United States or the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization ( NATO--see Glossary), might be; however,
the fact that Kyrgyzstan in early 1995 gave the last remnants
of its Soviet-era air fleet to Uzbekistan in a debt swap suggests
that neither Moscow nor Tashkent has taken such offers seriously.
It is not entirely clear what weapons Kyrgyzstan's army will
possess. The republic lost twelve IL-39 jets in March 1992, when
they were "repatriated" to Russia from a training field near the
capital, and the 1995 swap with Uzbekistan lost an unknown number
of MiG-21 fighters and L-39C close-support aircraft. Available
information suggests strongly that Kyrgyzstan, as the least militarized
of the Central Asian republics, is incapable of defending itself
against a military threat from any quarter.
Formally, the army is under the command of the president, in
his role as commander in chief; the National Security Council
is the chief agency of defense policy. Established in 1994, the
National Security Council has seven members, not including the
president, who is the chairman: the prime minister, the deputy
prime minister, the state secretary, the minister of internal
affairs, the minister of defense, the chairman of the State Committee
for National Security (successor to the Kyrgyzstan branch of the
Committee for State Security--KGB), and the commander of the National
Guard. The president appoints and dismisses senior military officers.
President Akayev also has followed the formulation of defense
policy quite closely. The Ministry of Defense has operational
command of military units; General Myrzakan Subanov has been minister
of defense since the agency was founded in 1992. The Ministry
of Defense and the National Security Council are advised by the
Center for Analysis, a research institution established in 1992.
The chief of the General Staff, the second-ranking officer in
the armed forces, is responsible for coordinating the National
Security Council, the State Committee for National Security, the
border troops, and civil defense. Since 1993 that position has
been occupied by General Feliks Kulov, a Kyrgyz. The Gen-eral
Staff, modeled after the Russian structure, includes the commanders
of the National Guard, the ground forces, the air and air defense
forces, and the internal forces.
In 1996 the Kyrgyzstani ground forces included 7,000 troops,
which comprise one motorized rifle division with armor and artillery
capability. Sapper and signals regiments are attached, as is a
mountain infantry brigade. Headquarters is at Bishkek. Plans called
for the ground forces to be restructured in 1995 into a corps
of two motorized rifle brigades and for an airborne battalion
to be added. In 1994 about 30 percent of the officer corps was
Russian; the commander was General Valentin Luk'yanov, a Ukrainian.
Air and Air Defense Forces
Because of expense and military doctrine, Kyrgyzstan has not
developed its air capability; a large number of the MiG-21 interceptors
that it borrowed from Russia were returned in 1993, although a
number of former Soviet air bases remain available. In 1996 about
100 decommissioned MiG-21s remained in Kyrgyzstan, along with
ninety-six L-39 trainers and sixty-five helicopters.
The air defense forces have received aid from Russia, which has
sent military advisory units to establish a defense system. Presently
Kyrgyzstan has twenty-six SA-2 and SA-3 surface-to-air missiles
in its air defense arsenal.
In 1992 a Kyrgyzstani command took over the republic's directorate
of the KGB's Central Asian Border Troops District, which had about
2,000 mostly Russian troops. In late 1992, alarmed by the possibility
of penetration of the border from Tajikistan and China, Russia
established a joint Kyrgyzstani-Russian Border Troop Command,
under Russian command. However, that force has been plagued with
desertions by Kyrgyz troops, about 200 of whom fled to China in
1993. Border troop bases are located at Isfara, Naryn, and Karakol.
Cadets and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in the ground forces
are trained at the Bishkek Military School, which played the same
role in the Soviet era. Under a 1993 agreement, a small number
of ground forces cadets study at Russian military schools, with
the specific goal of bolstering the ethnic Kyrgyz officer corps.
Small groups of Kyrgyz cadets also attend military schools in
Uzbekistan and Turkey. Officers selected for higher commands attend
a three-year course at Frunze Military Academy in Moscow and other
Russian military academies.
For the air force, the main training site is the Bishkek Aviation
School, once a major center for training foreign air cadets but
reduced in 1992 to a small contingent of mostly Kyrgyz cadets.
In 1992 Kyrgyzstan had five training regiments using 430 aircraft,
but that number was depleted by the mid-1990s. A 1994 agreement
calls for some Kyrgyz pilots to attend air force schools in Russia.
Data as of March 1996