U.S., Kazakhstan join forces to strengthen border security

A new state-of-the-art facility to train border guards in Almaty will make it increasingly difficult to smuggle illegal goods into Kazakhstan.

At the facility, built with U.S. support, Kazakhstani border officials are learning to identify and seize illegal goods or materials used to construct weapons of mass destruction. The facility includes baggage X-ray machines and passport-screening lanes that allow hands-on instruction in identifying smuggled items. Officials learn to inspect vehicles, trains and aircraft. There is even a kennel — dogs learn to detect bombs, weapons and drugs.

Creating a community of experts

The Almaty training facility is part of the U.S. Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program, which has partnered with 67 countries to achieve these aims:

  • Prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons and other illicit weapons-related transfers.
  • Improve border security.
  • Harmonize regional and international trade practices.
  • Strengthen national export-control systems.

The U.S. program holds an annual International Export Control Conference and facilitates regular cross-border enforcement exercises among its partners. Countries that have aligned their national trade control practices with international standards go on to mentor neighboring countries, further strengthening national border security and regional export control systems.

Trading across secure borders

Mock rail station (U.S. Consulate General Almaty/Andrew Chilcoat)
This mock rail station at the Border Guard Service Academy offers real-life scenarios. (U.S. Consulate General Almaty/Andrew Chilcoat)

Some of Central Asia’s most important cargo-shipping routes pass through Kazakhstan — which sits at the crossroads of the fastest route for overland shipping of Chinese goods bound for Russia or Europe. In 2017, Kazakhstani border security officials inspected around 100,000 shipping containers, a number expected to rise to 500,000 containers by 2020 and to more than 1 million containers by 2025.

By partnering with the U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security Program, the Kazakhstan government has emphasized its commitment to providing safe, legal transport of goods across its borders while ending illicit trafficking of goods and weapons.

Jennifer Bavisotto, of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of State, wrote a longer version of this story.