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8/12/2014 Uzbekistan: A Peek Inside an SCO Anti-Terrorism Center

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Home > Uzbekistan: A Peek Inside an SCO Anti-Terrorism Center
Uzbekistan: A Peek Inside an SCO Anti-
Terrorism Center
September 25, 2012 - 2:34pm, by Richard Weitz [1]
China [2] Kazakhstan [3] Kyrgyzstan [4] Russia [5] Tajikistan [6] Uzbekistan [7]
EurasiaNet's Weekly Digest [8] counter-narcotics [9] Counter-terrorism [10] SCO [11]
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September 25, 2012 - 2:26pm
The building that houses the Executive Committee of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organizations Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure is in a walled compound in the center of the
Uzbek capital, Tashkent. I had the good fortune to be among the few Americans invited to take
a peek inside.
Since its official opening in June 2004, the anti-terrorism center, or RATS, has fostered
coordinated policies and joint action on potential terrorist threats in SCO member states. It
also has planned SCO exercises and organized efforts to disrupt terrorist financing and money
laundering.
Like the US Embassy, RATS headquarters has its own housing and dining facilities inside the
compound, located in downtown Tashkent. But unlike the American Embassy, I encountered
no security after the lone guard waived our embassy car through the gate. The current
executive director, who happened to be out of town during my visit, is a Kyrgyz citizen; the
next director will be from China and a Russian national will lead the RATS Executive
Committee in 2014. A couple of dozen staffers work at the RATS compound.
Accompanied by several American diplomats who helped arrange the visit, I met with three
representatives of the RATS Executive Committee: Deputy Director Aleksey Krilov, Senior
Expert Berik Zhusupov (a Kazakhstani national), and Expert Pavel Ostrikov.
Some American diplomats expressed surprise upon hearing that my request to visit RATS
headquarters had been accepted, given that the several US Embassy visit attempts had been
rejected in recent years. The RATS representatives stressed that the SCO is not a military
bloc and that RATS focuses exclusively on terrorism and related illegal trans-national
activities [12], including money laundering.
When I asked about RATS efforts to compile an integrated terrorist list, Ostrikov said that it
remains a work in progress, adding that it focuses on organizations rather than individuals.
RATS does not try to identify or eliminate terrorists; this is done by member governments.
Krilov, the deputy director, confirmed that RATS is having problems compiling an integrated
terrorist list. Each government defines terrorism somewhat differently, he noted. For example,
the Chinese government does not officially regard al-Qaeda as a terrorist organization. India,
8/12/2014 Uzbekistan: A Peek Inside an SCO Anti-Terrorism Center
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likewise, does not see izb ut-Tarr [13] as a terrorist organization.
Ties between RATS and other, Moscow-dominated security structures, including the
Commonwealth of Independent States and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are
minimal, according to Krilov. RATS tends to cooperate most closely with a single national
security agency from each member government, usually the one most heavily focused on
countering terrorism. This is typically, but not always, the Ministry of Interior in any given
member state.
The SCO comprises [14] China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Observer nations include India Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia and Afghanistan. The
organization also counts Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as dialogue partners [15].
The RATS staff is dominated by representatives from the three states that are the SCOs
biggest financial contributors China, Kazakhstan and Russia. The three other member states
contribute what they can. Krilov noted that all countries participating in SCO activities engage
in RATS operations. Sri Lankan experts, he noted, have been sharing information concerning
suicide-bomber techniques.
Among RATS top priorities is encouraging information sharing and harmonizing anti-terror
policies. A recent RATS-organized conference, for instance, focused on ways to maintain
security at large public events, such as the Olympics or an international conference.
When I asked about the SCOs interest in working with the United States, Ostrikov explained
that RATS legal mandate does not allow for direct cooperation with national governments that
lack formal affiliation with the SCO. But indirect contacts can occur via SCO cooperation with
the United Nations, the OSCE and Interpol, all of which have a major US presence.
In the wake of the Arab Spring [16], SCO member states are paying increasing attention to the
Internet, Krilov noted. Every SCO country acts on the basis of its own laws and capabilities to
counter perceived cyber threats, he added. In particular, each SCO member has a specialized
Internet security unit.
Krilov also said that RATS has established an expert group to assess how to extend its anti-
terror mandate into the realm of counter-narcotics operations. He pointed out that some
terrorist groups are known to obtain funding by engaging in drug trafficking. RATS ability to
coordinate counter-narcotics efforts is hampered by the fact that in some SCO member states
the same agency deals with terrorist and narcotics threats, while in others, including Russia,
there are two separate entities dealing with terrorism and drug trafficking.
Editor's note: Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.
2012 EurasiaNet
Source URL: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/65960
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[13] http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/pp081407.shtml
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[16] http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62865