SCO Recent Meeting: Enhancing Intelligence Cooperation Amidst Emerging Threats

SCO expanded meeting
Expanded-format meeting at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State (Credits:, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 41 Issue 6
Author: Silvia Boltuc


The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) plays a pivotal role in addressing regional challenges, particularly in combating emerging terrorist threats and instability within the Eurasian region. Through coordinated efforts among its member states, the SCO fosters collaboration in intelligence-sharing and develops measures of joint response to hybrid threats like sabotage and terrorist attacks.

With the recent terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, committed by fighters from the SCO region, and in Kerman, Iran, the organisation created to combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism increased the intelligence cooperation and the alert level.

As the world transitions from a unipolar to a multipolar state, the geographical areas susceptible to conflicts and proxy wars are continuously expanding.

Additionally, since the SCO acts as a platform for fostering economic integration and development throughout Eurasia, any instability and insecurity can hinder the progress of integration and impede economic growth.

Background Information

Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan formed the Shanghai Five in 1996. Since 1998, the SCO Charter has included a key provision in Article 1, which focuses on the collaborative efforts to combat “separatism, extremism, and terrorism” originating from the Af-Pak region. In 2001, Uzbekistan joined the organisation that was later renamed as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

On April 2nd-3rd, 2024, Astana hosted the 19th meeting of the secretaries of the Security Council of the SCO member states. Iran took part in the meeting for the first time as a full-fledged SCO member state and Mongolia and Belarus, as SCO observer countries, have been invited as guests.

Kazakhstan chaired the meeting. In his speech, Kazakh President Kassym-Joomart Tokayev stressed that countering the “three forces of evil” (terrorism, separatism and extremism), as well as transnational organised crime, drug trafficking and cybersecurity challenges, is the priority of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the SCO.

Geopolitical Scenario

During the opening remarks in 2001, the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev defined Afghanistan the “cradle of terrorism”.

Twenty years after, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has resulted in the reemergence of terrorist activities and regional instability originating from the country, as confirmed by the attacks unfolded in Kerman, Iran, in January 2024.

Since chaos is a key objective of terrorism, the more recent attack in Moscow, carried out by citizens from Central Asia, is particularly concerning for SCO members.

The consequences of such events can lead to the division of neighbouring states, in this case, Russia and Tajikistan, both members of the organisation. Indeed, a surge of dissatisfaction erased after the Crocus Hall Attack, which resulted from Russian Security Forces conducting investigations on Central Asian expats living in Russia.

Still, as a matter of fact, an alarming trend of Central Asia emerging as a breeding ground for extremist ideologies is unfolding. As SpecialEurasia recently reported, IS-Khorasan disseminates propaganda in multiple languages, including Tajik, Uzbek and Russian.

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In addition, the Taliban government in Afghanistan has been inconsistent in their attempts to eradicate terrorist groups such as the local branch of the Islamic State, which is predominantly made up of Central Asians and Afghans. The recent evidence indicating that the Taliban is supporting and allowing also al-Qaeda’s presence and activities in Afghanistan further complicates the country’s security landscape.

In modern times, identifying sleeper cells has become increasingly challenging, especially in cases like the Moscow attack, where terrorists are no longer fanatics but rather volunteers or mercenaries recruited through the internet. These individuals are often illiterate and impoverished, enticed by the promise of meager compensation.

RATS: Regional Anti-Terrorists Structure

The SCO region saw a strengthening of cooperation against terrorism, which culminated in the establishment of the Regional Anti-Terrorists Structure (RATS) in 2001.

The organisation located in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, established a collaborative framework to address the worldwide challenges of terrorism and extremism and aid member nations in developing counterterrorism strategies. RATS initiated collaborative drills aimed at enhancing the SCO’s capacity in countering insurgency and terrorism through the training of military personnel in tactical counterterrorism operations.

According to open sources, between 2011 and 2015, RATS helped the SCO region to prevent 20 terror attacks and 650 terror-related crimes, neutralised 1,700 extremists, and arrested 2,700 terrorists.

Adapting to new challenges posed by terrorist groups’ online recruitment activity, SCO RATS conducted a joint information operation to prevent the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes.

The existing Memorandum of Cooperation between the SCO RATS and the Anti-Terrorism Centre of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS ATC) strengthens the collective security endeavours of regional countries.

On March 29th, 2024, the structure 41st meeting was held in Tashkent at the presence of delegations of the competent authorities of the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan and representatives of the SCO RATS Executive Committee.

Decisions were made to approve the draft Program of Cooperation of the SCO Member States in Countering Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2025-2027, as well as the results of the Joint Anti-Terrorism Exercise of the competent authorities of the member states of the SCO dubbed “Eurasia-AntiTerror-2023” held in the city of Bishkek and the Joint Anti-Terrorism Exercise of the competent authorities of the SCO member states aimed at identifying and stopping the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes held in 2023 in New Delhi.

The proposal of the Kyrgyz side to conduct a Joint Border Operation of the border services of the competent authorities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member states dubbed “Solidarity-2024” was supported.


The recent terrorist attacks in Moscow, in Kerman and in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan underscore the imperative for heightened vigilance and cooperation within the SCO to effectively combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism.

As the SCO continues to evolve as a key platform for regional security collaboration, initiatives such as the RATS are essential in enhancing collective efforts and addressing emerging challenges, particularly in countering online recruitment activities and border security threats.

The new geopolitical landscape resulting from the conflict in Ukraine and the ensuing fracture in international relations should not hinder the flow of intelligence information between countries and cooperation on counterterrorism efforts.

Beside counterterrorism and counterinsurgency activities, SCO is constantly working on tackling illegal trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances, and transnational organised crime and promoting cooperation on international information security, as well as further cooperation within the framework of multilateral associations such as the UN, the CICA, the CSTO.

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