Staunton, August 13 – Despite the problematic precedent of such units in Chechnya, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has approved Daghestani calls for the creation of republic anti-terrorist and anti-extremist units staffed by local people, an indication of just how poorly the existing force structures are performing and how great the threat from the militants now is.
On Monday, at a meeting of the Daghestan Anti-Terrorist Commission, republic leader Magomedsalam Magomedov said that the “low effectiveness” of the current struggle against terrorism and extremism there is a serious threat and that Makhachkala must take new measures now (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/172914/).
“Since the start of the year,” he said, “more than 250 people” in the republic have suffered from attacks which have been occurring in more places than ever before. “One must recognize,” Magomedov continued, “that out responses and the actions of the force structures have not been as effective as we would like.”
Indeed, the republic head continued, given “the growing activity of underground bands, the number of successfully conducted counter-terrorist operations which have liquidates or detained militants has become less than during the same period last year,” a trend that must not be allowed to continue.
He told the meeting that he had proposed to Moscow the creation of “special subunits” consisting of Daghestanis who will “be involved with questions of countering terrorists and extremists. At this stage,” he continued, “work is being conducted in the government of the Republic of Daghestan for the formation of a special fund to support these activities.”
And Magomedov indicated that among the tasks these new units would have would be guarding the critically important hydro-electric stations in Daghestan. There are seven major ones, and four minor ones, and their security has been a major concern for Moscow officials, including deputy energy minister Andrey Shishkin, who recently visited the republic.
According to today’s “Kommersant,” Magomedov is now saying that President Medvedev has “approved the creation in the republic of ‘a special subunit with no less than 800’” officers and men “for conducting special and military operations in the mountainous and forested areas” of Daghestan (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1486264).
Vice Premier Rizvan Kurbanov, who oversees the local silovki, said that these forces would consist of two to three battalions and would be more effective in “restoring order” because “unlike the federals, they on their own territory know all the mountain roads and pathways and even by external signs can distinguish representatives of traditional Islam from extremism.”
At the same time, Kurbanov insisted that no one “intends to copy the Chechen defenders of order” in Daghestan. Just one of the differences between what Makhachkala plans to do and what Grozny has done, he said, is that the Daghestani units will not use any former militants but only those who are committed to the government side.
For this proposal to take off, “Kommersant” points out, there will have to be “a corresponding decree of the president” confirming “the composition, number and structure of the forces” and also defining their basing and relationship to existing Russian MVD units in Daghestan.
Despite pledges that these new units will not repeat the behavior of the North and South battalions in Chechnya, many in Makhachkala and probably in Moscow are skeptical about this idea and will oppose it. Magomed Shamilov, the head of the independent union of internal security and prosecutor workers in Daghestan, told the Moscow paper that he and his colleagues are “categorically against the creation of such battalions.”
“Whatever they are called” and whatever people say now, he continued, “these will be subunits who will be involved with the destruction of Daghestanis who by the will of fate or out of their own mistakes turn out to be on ‘that side’” or otherwise are viewed by officials as their enemies.
Muslim groups are worried as well. According to one Islamic blog, Kurbanov’s certainty that Daghestanis will be able to distinguish “traditional” Muslims from “radical” ones likely means that any such new units will treat all those wearing a beard as Wahhabis by definition, a dangerous assumption indeed (muslims-org.blogspot.com/2010/08/blog-post_8559.html).