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National Security Committee (Kazakhstan)

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National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Қазақстан Республикасы Ұлттық Қауіпсіздік Комитеті (Kazakh)
Комитет Национальной Безопасности Республики Казахстан (Russian)
The emblem of The National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Agency overview
Formed13 July 1992; 32 years ago (1992-07-13)
Preceding agency
Agency executive
  • Chairman, Yermek Sagimbayev
Also referred to by the abbreviations KNB[1][2] or NSC,[3] or unofficially as the Kazakh National Security Service[4]

The National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan (NSC, Kazakh: Қазақстан Республикасының Ұлттық қауіпсіздік комитеті, ҰҚК, romanizedQazaqstan Respublikasynyñ Ūlttyq qauıpsızdık komitetı, ŪQK; Russian: Комитет национальной безопасности Республики Казахстан, КНБ) is an intelligence agency in Kazakhstan founded on 13 July 1992.[3][5] It primarily manages the Border Service of Kazakhstan, which conducts oversight over the international borders of Kazakhstan. The NSC also oversees the Arystan ('Lions') commando unit.[6]


The NSC was created in accordance with a law passed by parliament in July 1992 which authorised the establishment of an agency to replace the KGB, the old national security apparatus of the Soviet Union. Initially, it retained most of the staff which the KGB had employed in Kazakhstan, as well as the powers the KGB had held; its first head, Bulat Baekenov, had worked for the KGB for over two decades. Its early years were marked by close cooperation with Russia on issues of border security and counter-intelligence against alleged foreign spies.[1]

In December 1995, a new presidential decree modified some of the NSC's powers.[7]

In January 2010, Kazakhstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed his nephew Samat Abish as the NSC's head of human resources; opposition lawmaker Serikbolsyn Abdildin of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan claimed this shows that Nazarbayev considers personal loyalty more important than skill in government posts.[2]


In November 2008, journalist Ramazan Yesergepov published an article entitled "Who Rules the Country: President or National Security Committee?" It contained private NSC correspondence which was later listed as classified, resulting in his 2009 arrest and conviction on security charges.[8] The case led to domestic and international condemnation.[9][10] In early 2021, the NSC, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry and the United States, conducted an operation under the auspices of "Operation Zhusan" to return a group of Kazakhstani citizens from Syria.[11][12]

Main directions of activity[edit]

  • Counterintelligence Service, support law enforcement in neutralizing threats to national security.
  • Anti-Terror Service, protects the country from terrorist threats.
  • Economic Security Service, suppresses activities aimed at causing economic damage to Kazakhstan.
  • Information and Cyber Security Service, ensures the protection of the nation from internal and external threats to cyberspace.
  • Department of Military Counterintelligence, serves to identify, prevent and suppress in the Armed Forces, other troops and military formations, intelligence and other activities aimed at damaging the security of the republic.
  • Service "A", suppresses acts of terrorism.

Nominal structure Structural divisions and departments of the National Security Committee:

  • Counterintelligence Service
  • Military Police Department of the National Security Committee
  • "Syrbar" (Foreign Intelligence Service)
  • Anti-terror service
  • Economic Security Service
  • Information and Cyber Security Service
  • Department of Military Counterintelligence
  • Government Liaison Service
  • Border Service
  • Arystan Commando Unit
  • Special Forces Service (SSN)
  • State Technical Service[13]
  • 17 Territorial Divisions
  • Research and educational institutions

Arystan Commando Unit[edit]

The shoulder patch of the unit.

The Arystan ("Lions") Commando Unit (Russian: специального назначения «Арыстан», romanizedspetsial'nogo naznacheniya "Arystan") is a special forces unit of the Office of the NSC and the armed forces.[14] It was created as part of the Presidential Security Service on 13 January 1992. It succeeded the Alpha Group of the Soviet KGB based in the Almaty Oblast (12th Group), which was dissolved in October 1990. Since April 1993, the unit has been referred to as the Arystan Unit. Every year, personnel of the unit are required to pass a qualifying exam. It currently operates in Nur-Sultan, Almaty, and Aktau (the latter being done in order to ensure safety in the oil-producing fields).[15] Its nickname is the Holy Slim of Kazakhstan (Kazakh: Қасиетті Елім Қазақстан, romanizedQasiettı Elım Qazaqstan). Today's training of "Arystan" is based on extensive international experience, having training from the Special Purpose Center (CSN) of the Russian Federal Security Service, the American Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the GSG 9 of the German Federal Police. Notable commanders include Viktor Fyodorovich Karpukhin and Amangeldy Shabdarbayev.

In 2006, five members of the unit were arrested and charged with the kidnapping and death of the co-chairman of the opposition Naghyz Ak Zhol party Altynbek Sarsenbayuly, as well as his driver and bodyguard.[16] Interior Minister Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov stated that the unit members were paid $25,000 in return for committing the murder.[17]


The KNB of Kazakhstan is headed by the chairman, who is appointed by the President of the Republic with the consent of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic and dismissed by the president of the Republic from office.

List of chairmen[edit]

Chairman controversies[edit]

  • Chairman Musaev's second term was ended by dismissal from his post due to personal conflicts with the president and other elites[18]
  • Chairman Nurtai Abykayev was dismissed from his post for his role in a scandal over the sale of old MiG fighter planes to North Korea by the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense, and replaced by his predecessor.[18][22][23]
  • Adil Shayakhmetov was removed from his post in the aftermath of the arrest of Prosecutor-General's Office official Murat Musabekov, who was fingered as allegedly plotting a coup in an anonymous letter allegedly circulated by NSC officers.[23][19]
  • Nartai Dutbayev resigned in scandal over murder of opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbayev.[18][24][25]


  1. ^ a b Knight 1997, p. 161
  2. ^ a b "Kazakh President's Nephew Gets Post in Security Service", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 January 2010, archived from the original on 4 March 2016, retrieved 27 January 2010
  3. ^ a b McDermott, Roger N. (3 August 2006), "Kazakhstan's Intelligence Service in Disarray", The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst, archived from the original on 29 February 2012, retrieved 2 February 2010
  4. ^ "KNB Gives Kazakh Uranium Company Head New Lawyer", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 20 January 2010, archived from the original on 11 August 2010, retrieved 2 February 2010
  5. ^ Adequately react to modern threats, Kazakhstan: National Security Committee, 13 July 2007, archived from the original on 17 February 2012, retrieved 1 August 2009
  6. ^ "Suspects in slaying of opposition leader reportedly from Kazakh security service", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 22 February 2006, archived from the original on 25 November 2010, retrieved 13 December 2010
  7. ^ "Об органах национальной безопасности Республики Казахстан", Ведомости Верховного Совета Республики Казахстан, vol. 24, no. 157, 21 December 1995, archived from the original on 15 February 2019, retrieved 28 January 2010
  8. ^ "Kazakhstan: Journalist Ramazan Yesergepov faces the prospect of spending the next 8 years behind the bars", Ferghana Information Agency, 11 January 2009, archived from the original on 15 February 2019, retrieved 20 April 2011
  9. ^ Leonard, Peter (13 August 2009), "Kazakhstan court refuses to free jailed editor", Seattle Times, archived from the original on 23 March 2020, retrieved 20 April 2011
  10. ^ "Rights group raps Kazakh record before OSCE summit", Daily Times of Pakistan, 1 December 2010, archived from the original on 22 October 2012, retrieved 20 April 2011
  11. ^ "Kazakhs return home from Syria". 4 February 2021. Archived from the original on 4 February 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  12. ^ Gotev, Georgi (4 February 2021). "Kazakhstan repatriates 'foreign fighters' from Syria –". Euractiv.com. Archived from the original on 5 February 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  13. ^ tengrinews.kz (2 August 2017). "В КНБ передали службу, управляющую сетями телекоммуникаций в Казахстане". Главные новости Казахстана - Tengrinews.kz (in Russian). Archived from the original on 11 January 2021. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  14. ^ Mariya Y. Omelicheva, Counterterrorism Policies in Central Asia, page 119.
  15. ^ "О мерах по дальнейшему совершенствованию деятельности органов национальной безопасности Республики Казахстан — Указ Президента Республики Казахстан от 22 ноября 2016 года № 372с". Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  16. ^ Kazakh security officers suspected of kidnapping, not murdering oppositionist. Archived 27 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine, BBC Monitoring International Reports, 22 February 2006.
  17. ^ Top Kazakh Aide Quits in Crisis After Killing of Opposition Figure Archived 15 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine New York Times
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Кузнецов, Николай (11 December 2009), "Девять жизней Комитета нацбезопасности", Взгляд, vol. 45, no. 134, archived from the original on 27 February 2012, retrieved 28 January 2010
  19. ^ a b "Kazakhstan Approves New National Security Committee Chief", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 9 December 2009, archived from the original on 10 October 2010, retrieved 27 January 2010
  20. ^ "Kazakh Senate Approves New Intelligence Chief", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2 March 2006, archived from the original on 9 August 2009, retrieved 27 January 2010
  21. ^ Lillis, Joanna (6 January 2022). "Kazakhstan explainer: Who's in, who's out as Tokayev tries to take back control?". Eurasianet.org. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Kazakh sackings over plane scandal", BBC News, 9 August 1999, archived from the original on 13 November 2012, retrieved 1 August 2009
  23. ^ a b Lillis, Joanna (7 October 2010), "Kazakhstan: Coup Rumor a Sign of Factional Infighting in Astana", Eurasianet, archived from the original on 15 November 2010, retrieved 13 December 2010
  24. ^ "Central Asia Report: Week at a Glance", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 10 March 2006, archived from the original on 6 August 2009, retrieved 27 January 2010
  25. ^ "Kazakh officers linked to murder", BBC News, 26 January 2006, archived from the original on 5 August 2009, retrieved 28 January 2010


  • Knight, Amy W. (1997), Spies without cloaks: the KGB's successors, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-01718-1

External links[edit]