Saturday, August 27, 2016

Caucasus Report

Azerbaijan To Reform Military Conscription

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (right) awards soldiers serving in the Geranboy district last month.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (right) awards soldiers serving in the Geranboy district last month.
Eighteen months after the belated adoption of a new military doctrine that pinpoints the continued occupation of Azerbaijani territory by Armenian forces as a major threat, Azerbaijan has finally embarked on structural reform of its armed forces.

In recent years, Baku has doubled defense spending, from over $2 billion in 2009 to $4.4 billion for 2012. At the same time, senior officials have warned repeatedly that in the absence of a political settlement to the Karabakh conflict, a "military solution" is the only alternative. Whether massive cash injections alone can transform armed forces that were described in an International Crisis Group (ICG) report released three years ago as "fragmented, divided, accountable-to-no-one-but-the-president, un-transparent, corrupt, and internally feuding" is questionable, however.

Initial measures unveiled last week focus on modernizing conscription, one of several spheres within the armed forces where corruption is reportedly endemic. Military service is mandatory in Azerbaijan for men between the ages of 18 and 35. The ICG report noted that many conscripts' families pay bribes to military commissars in order to avoid front-line duty by being sent to serve in other units such as the Interior troops.

As a first step, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has issued a decree abolishing the district military commissariats subordinate to the Defense Ministry and establishing in their place a civil State Service for Mobilization and Induction into Military Service, which held its first session on February 15.  

Retired Colonel Ildyrym Mamedov, who now heads the civilian Center for Military Academic Research, described the military commissariats, a Soviet throwback dating to before World War II, as "a repressive and corrupt organ that is incapable of taking decisions, and poisons relations between the people and the state." He said the commissars were for the most part corrupt "daddy's boys" who had never seen active service and had no management experience; he branded them "a disgrace to the armed forces." 

Cesur Sumerinli, who heads the Doktrina Center for Journalistic Military Research, told that "dozens" of former military commissars were currently under arrest awaiting trial on bribery and corruption charges. 

The new civil state service is headed by Arzu Ragimov, a former general who previously served as chairman of the State Migration Service. According to Colonel Mamedov, it is primarily thanks to Ragimov's professionalism that the State Migration Service is one of the country's most professional agencies. Sumerinli for his part noted that Ragimov has never been implicated in corruption.

Sumerinli also told that creation of a civilian agency to oversee conscription was one of the requirements enshrined in the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) agreed with NATO in 2005. The law on mobilization was duly amended to replace regional call-up centers with a single one subordinate directly to the head of state, reported on March 11, 2006, but that amendment apparently remained on paper.

The ICG report noted that those selective reforms that have been implemented within the Azerbaijani military have been undertaken in order to meets the demands of successive IPAPs. The most recent IPAP was finalized in December 2011.  

Revamping conscription may, as Sumerinli noted, reduce the potential leeway for corruption in that sector. But many other areas have long been affected, including procurement and supply. The online daily "Ayna-Zerkalo" has reported fearlessly since the mid-to-late 1990s on such abuses as the falsification of documentation pertaining to the purchase of food supplies, some of which (canned pet food past its sell-by date) was not fit for human consumption.

In March 2006, reported that President Aliyev planned to issue "soon" orders to create a special commission that was to review the spending by the Defense Ministry of budget funds. But three years later, the ICG concluded that corruption in procurement and supply was still a problem. "A lack of transparency and parliamentary oversight of tenders for military construction and food and other purchases for the army allows inflated prices and proxy companies to receive preferential treatment," the report reads. "Lethal accidents in the armed forces due to technical malfunctions have led to speculation that due to corruption in procurement, outdated hardware is being purchased as new."

As long as Azerbaijan's top brass refuse to take effective measures to eradicate not only corruption in its various manifestations, but also brutal hazing, reform of the call-up system alone will not yield armed forces that conform to NATO standards. According to Mamedov, that can be achieved only by switching to a professional army serving on a contract basis, backed by a pool of reservists who undergo annual training.
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Comment Sorting
by: Jack from: US
February 22, 2012 00:32
it does not matter how Azerbajzhan "reforms" its army, or how much rump "republic of Georgia" is armed and trained by US. Armenia if necessary can easily crush both Azerbajzhan and "republic of Georgia" even when outnumbered 10 to 1. Both Azeris and "republic of Georgians" are known for "taking their legs into their hands" and running away in panic when confronted with a small detachment of Armenian troops or Abkhaz troops or Russian troops.
In Response

by: Jill from: US
February 22, 2012 09:47
Jack or Jackanian or whatever your name is. Spouting BS in support of your bankrupt, resource less and hungry state does not change the reality of the situation.

Money = Power and Armenia has neither. Russia and its troops are the only thing keeping Armenia from annihilation.
In Response

by: RD
February 22, 2012 20:39
Yes, that bankrupt and resourceless state kicked Azeri butts back to the stone ages and to Baku where they belong. If money meant power, Nigeria with its massive oil wealth will be one of the most militarily powerful nations on the face of the earth.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
February 23, 2012 04:01
no offence but I refer to a common between South Caucasian people perseption of "republic of Georgians" as being cowards.
They are simply not a good fighters, and prefer to hide behind Uncle Sam's back.
In Response

by: raf from: US
February 23, 2012 04:58
Jill or Jillolghlu, indeed money is power but only in the hands of those who know how to use it. Just look at that picture, Ilham Aliev looks like a clown in that uniform, he and the plastic lady Mehriban kind of remind me Louis xvi of France and his wife Marie Antoinette. That hubris can be very costly for your "resource rich" country.

by: Simon from: NY
February 22, 2012 23:40
Armenia is Russia's property. Without Russia, Azerbaijan would slap Armenia back to Yerevan.
In Response

by: Jill from: US
February 23, 2012 11:36

Simon just nailed it!

The Armenian propoganda machine can spout all the BS they want, but the reality of the situation is as Simon put it.
In Response

by: George from: US
February 24, 2012 02:33
If you go to that region you will see that Armenians are so ready you cannot even imagine. Armenia will make azeris cry big time!
In Response

by: George from: US
February 24, 2012 02:26
You think Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan’s property. Pure Simon. When war takes place in that region Russians are usually neutral because they need Azeris too. Russians are there for Turkey not Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is nothing but an an oily country. They buy weapons but do not know how to use them. At the end soldier is what you need not weapon. Armenians are protecting their home land but Azeris are not. Azeris are the conquerors and there is so much one can conquerors right. At the end they are Mongols that is what Mongols do right.
In Response

by: Serge from: France
February 24, 2012 12:14
Typical misinformed racist war monger!

Azeris are neither Turks nor Mongols, in fact, an Armenian geneticist as well as others carried out studies which confirm most Azeris are the same group as Armenians and Georgians. This also back up the fact that Azeris are indigenous to the area.

This information is widely available on the internet, do some research before you start talking nonsense.

Only a fool would listen to your land grabbing agenda propaganda!

Why are you so eager to kill your neighbors??? You are sick!!!

by: George from: US
February 24, 2012 16:48
Listen Serge from: France
I know more about Azeris and Georgians that you know about your self. Azeris are Mongols. If you do more re-search you will see they are the once who buy weapon to destroy Armenia. Their military budget is 4 billion but Armenians is only 300 millions. OK mr sergeuglu!
In Response

by: Serge from: France
February 26, 2012 22:04
Aww... poor little George! Did I hit a raw nerve? How is it that anyone with a different opinion to your racism is a Turk? Do you even read the garbage you write?

If you want to believe our own lies, go for it, but actual scientific research does not back up your racist claims, FACT!!! Instead of sitting here talking nonsense, why don't you do some actual research little boy?

And what's wrong with Mongols? They live peacefully in the caucasian region, Republic of Kalmykia. Again do some research before you post your racist war monger tripe.

by: George from: US
February 24, 2012 16:51
Serge from: France. Also where do you see in my comment that I cannot wait to kill them. Please stop playing innocent Turk here!

by: sunset eagle from: US
February 26, 2012 18:19
If Azerbaijan was able to start a new war against Armenia, it would have done it long time ago. The Azeri war drums only beat for internal consumption.
In Response

by: Farida from: USA
February 29, 2012 18:21
Sunset eagle: you DO realize that Azerbaijan would have to fight against Russia as we did in 1990, DON'T you? You really think Azerbaijani government is that stupid to waste lives again? Well, most likely with your brains being washed out, you do think that. My country would not stand a chance against Russia! Unfortunately, noone would back up Azerbaijan if the war started (not the US, not Turkey, not any country - not against Russia). Azerbaijanis never hated anyone that is why we did not expect betrayal from neighbors, or atrocities Armenians committed during the war. New generation though will never forget any of this. So, just give us a chance, make a mistake.
In Response

by: Alex from: LA
March 07, 2012 09:49
Hahaha speak about the brain washing... Armenian atrocities was an answer to Pogroms that Azeri's commited against Armenians, and soldier doing it not the same when citizens do it, go cry in you burka a bit more and tune in to Azeristaniturki Propaganda Radio, it's the only one that you people have

by: Marky Mark from: North hollywood
February 29, 2012 08:38
The only time the Azeris would attack Armenia would be if the isrealis attack irans nuclear sites, as that would create smoke and mirrors for the rest of the world not to notice the Azeri advance. Armenia would be forced to protect itself, and would certainly take out Azeri oil pipelines to stop their main source of income and their advance. The russians would certainly side with the Armenians, for fear of losing its regional influence in the Caucuses entirely, but would play the middle man on the international scene. In any case this can be disastrous and lead to WWIII. Armenia being in the middle of it and being such a small country surrounded by enemies, will certainly need to act efficiently and quickly to avoid taking a devastating blow,which can come from either side really (Turkey or Azerbaijan). In any case, Armenia should act first and not wait to be bombed and then retaliate. An attack on Azeri Oil fields, followed by a downpour of missiles into the Azeri mainland, followed by a blitzkrieg and the liberation of Nakchijevan from the occupying Azeris will serve them right. I would hate to see Armenia in another war, but should it come to that, we should certainly throw the first punch. God bless Armenia.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.