After "Four-Day War" Exposes Weaknesses, Heads Begin To Roll In Yerevan
Three high-ranking Armenian military and defense officials have been fired amid growing recriminations about the performance of the country's armed forces in what has come to be called the "four-day war" with Azerbaijan earlier this month.
The officials included a top Ministry of Defense procurement official, as well as the head of intelligence at the general staff and the head of communications at the MoD. Part of the reason: the officials were believed to be using budget funds meant for military procurements for their own personal use, reported the newspaper Zhoghovurd, citing the president's office.
"Soldiers, along with their relatives, publicly stated that we would not have had that many losses during the four-day war had the personnel been provided with appropriate ammunition. It was also discussed how over the course of years relevant MoD officials had become the owners of huge estates, leaving the army with an arms problem," Zhoghovurd reported, as cited by epress.am.
Similar allegations were raised by former prime minister Grant Bagratyan, reported RFE/RL. "Our soldiers can't see anything after 8 o'clock because of the lack of night vision equipment. We had so many casualties because we didn't have ordinary communications equipment that we had in the 1990s," he said at an April 25 session of parliament. "We have serious problems with the quality of the leadership of the defense ministry, when several have acquired expensive jeeps... and it emerges that we don't have the ordinary communications equipment that we had ten years ago, and our guys had to contact each other by cell phone, which was the reason for additional casualties."
Another MP at the hearing said that broader problems with the ministry of defense needed to be discussed behind closed doors. "There are questions we can't ask now in front of the media, given the sensitivity and the delicacy of the subject. But there are many questions which we'd like to discuss in a closed session to the prime minister of Armenia, to the minister of defense," said Naira Zograbyan.
While Armenians more or less fought the Azerbaijanis to a standstill, concern has arisen in Armenia since then about the performance of their armed forces. Intelligence was one problem, said regional analyst Emil Sanamyan, an an email interview with The Bug Pit. "They didnt expect the scale of attack, most Armenian losses took place in the first several hours."
Secondly, Sanamyan said, other problems with armaments emerged, including the appearance of several new Azerbaijani weapons systems. "I think use of suicide drones was a surprise," he said.
All of this will likely lead to more than the firings of three officials, though what further changes may be in store for the Armenian armed forces are not yet clear. "The Defense Army mobilized fairly quickly -- artillery proved particularly effective -- and suicide drones eventually proved fairly easy targets for ground fire," Sanamyan said. "But the intelligence failure and technology gaps mean the shake up at the defense ministry is likely to continue."
"The enemy has changed his strategy," said David Babayan, a senior advisor to the de facto president's office of Nagorno Karabakh, pointing to Azerbaijan's apparent attempt to shift the line of contact between the two armed forces, which had hitherto been fixed for years. "And this entails a necessary reexamination of several components of the defense system."
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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