Forces: May 19, 2005

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: Its not likely that the current dictator of Uzbekistan will be overthrown by a popular "flower" revolution, as has recently occurred in several of the former Soviet Republics, including neighboring Kyrgyzstan. There are two reasons for this. One, the internal security troops are willing to be ruthless and brutal. But perhaps more important, there are no sizable dissatisfied minorities which might serve as the basis for large scale opposition. The population is about 80 percent Uzbek, plus five percent Russians and another five percent Tajiks. The remaining ten percent are split among five or six other groups. About 90 percent of the people are Sunni Moslems, with the balance Russian Orthodox. 

In addition, President Islom Karimov (in power since 1990, when the country was still part of the Soviet Union) has been particularly careful in distributing power, and money. The country's most important military and paramilitary forces are all in the hands of loyal supporters. If one of the President's principal supporters defected, taking with him his forces, that might make a difference. But even there, Karimov has protected himself by distributing the security troops so that no one commander could pull off a coup.

Security forces are divided among four agencies:

Interior Ministry. About 13,000 troops, which are a reserve for riots or uprisings. Most of the Interior Ministry personnel are police officers (300,000). Thats a lot of cops for a population of only 26 million, but it shows how the government payroll is used to keep Karimov in power. A job as a cop is much sought after in a country with high unemployment and much poverty. 

Border Guards. About 10,000 troops, who guard border crossings, but mostly patrol long, lonely borders. They can be called in to take care of troublemakers. 

Security Service. About 10,000 special agents and other personnel who basically keep an eye on the other three services, and the security situation inside the country. These guys are the secret police, many of the senior officials are KGB veterans. 

Defense Ministry.  About 45,000 troops. Note that less than twenty percent of men under arms belong to the armed forces.

The Interior Minister has some control over the Border Guards and Security Service (more or less the heirs to the KGB), but the heads of these agencies are directly responsible to the president. Thus it is clear that the main mission of the security forces is to keep Karimov in power. 

 


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