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Kyrgyz Minister Says Army To Stick With Conscription

Kyrgyz troops on parade in 2006 (RFE/RL) August 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan's defense minister, Ismail Isakov, says there are no plans to abolish conscription and create a wholly professional army.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Isakov said there is currently no need for such a transformation and there is no room in the budget for a professional army.

Most of Kyrgyzstan's 12,000-13,000 troops are conscripts serving one year of compulsory military service.

But the defense minister said the military is recruiting a handful of professionals for special mountain operations as part of broader army reforms.

Isakov said the need for such highly trained professional soldiers was apparent in a clash with Taliban-linked militants at Batken seven years ago.

"What kind of changes are occurring?" Isakov responded to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. "There is the establishment of special air-defense forces [and] there is the formation of special military detachments from among troops needed for mountains operations. This was a very important step since learning the lessons of events in Batken in 2000. The troops in that special detachment are serving on a contract basis. [That leads to] the formation of professional military detachments."

Isakov also said a new military rank of "legal adviser" has been introduced into the army, with duties that include dealing with human rights issues in the military forces.