Fewer Conscripts for Uzbek Military

Fewer Conscripts for Uzbek Military

Tuesday, 2 December, 2008
As part of its ongoing military reforms, the Uzbek government is going to call up conscripts once a year instead of two. This will make the induction process cheaper, although some observers believe it could mean that serving personnel are on average less well trained than before.

The changes were announced in a decree issued by President Islam Karimov on November 21, and come into effect next year. There will be just one call-up, held in the spring, and conscripts who have completed their service will similarly be discharged once a year instead of twice.

Uzbekistan launched military reforms five years ago, with the ultimate aim of creating a smaller but better equipped and more mobile army than before. The overall number of personnel has been reduced to 53,000, national service now lasts just one year, and some of the lower-ranks are now volunteer professionals rather than conscripts.

Because the army has shrunk and Uzbekistan’s population is growing by 1.2 per cent a year, there is now surplus of potential conscripts, and the selection process has now become competitive, with recruits chosen by social background, intelligence, health and physique.

The precise number of men conscripted into the army is a state secret, but a defence ministry source says there are now five or six times as many available as the military actually takes.

Observers say many young men wish are keen to do military service, because this a prerequisite for getting a job in the civil service or the law-enforcement agencies.

According to a local human rights activist, “Many young men fail the competitive selection process for military service, so they bribe the officials with 400, 500 or more US dollars in order to get assigned for service.”

Tashpulat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political analyst now living abroad, believes cutting the number of call-ups to one a year will reduce the scope for corruption as well as bringing down administrative costs, since fewer recruitment officers will be needed.

Yadgor Norbutaev, an independent analyst in Tashkent, argue that because all the recruits in any given year will be in training at the same time, rather than the induction process being staggered in two batches, the army will be less ready for combat than before.

“A military unit with a quarter of its members consisting of raw recruits cannot be considered combat-ready, and that’s not even mention the units consisting entirely of recruits,” said Norbutaev.

NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service resumed in 2008, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)

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