After being booted out of the Levant, and more and more signs appearing that the same thing will happen in Iraq too, America has thus focused its attention on Afghanistan and the peripheral territories in the hope that one day it can export what remains of ISIS to these areas and create a perimeter of “democracy” on Russia’s borders. In his latest dispatch, the Russian analyst Aleksey Pakholin reports about the US’ meddling in Uzbekistan.
Washington aims to integrate the former Soviet Central Asia with Afghanistan and Pakistan under the patronage of the US.
Since the beginning of 2019 the US has started to considerably increase its military-diplomatic activity in Central Asia. The main efforts of the Americans are concentrated on Uzbekistan, which turns towards the United States more and more.
In the middle of January the military personnel of the special operations forces of the Ministry of Defence of Uzbekistan for the first time in its history took part in the “Southern Strike” joint military exercises with its American partner at the Camp Shelby military base (State of Mississippi). From the American side the military personnel of the National Guard of the State of Mississippi participated in the exercises. As the military department of Uzbekistan explains, such exercises allow to “support combat readiness and interaction between US forces and key allies” (i.e., Uzbekistan is already among the number of “key allies” of the US?), and scenarios of exercises are developed taking into account the current global crises. Besides Uzbekistan, the military personnel of the special forces of Canada, Chile, and the Netherlands took part in the exercises.
The main partner of Tashkent in the sphere of military communications is the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which is responsible for East Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. The command of CENTCOM has been establishing ties with Tashkent for a long time. In April 2017 negotiations between the president of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev with the head of CENTCOM General Joseph Votel took place, the subject of which became, as it was reported, “issues concerning security and stability in the region”.
On May 12th 2018 a military delegation of the US headed by General J. Votel held negotiations in Tashkent with the Minister of Defence of Uzbekistan Abdusalom Azizov. And on September 18th of the same year Uzbekistan was visited by one more US military delegation headed by the commander of the National Guard of the State of Mississippi and deputy governor Major General Janson D. Boyles. It is back then that the agreement on the participation of Uzbek military personnel in exercises in the State of Mississippi was reached.
At the end of February of this year J. Votel visited Tashkent again. He again held negotiations with the political and military leadership of Uzbekistan. On February 21st, in the Hyatt Regency Tashkent hotel, a conference of Chiefs of General Staffs of the countries of Central and Southern Asia took place. Besides J. Votel, the Chiefs of General Staffs of the armies of four countries of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan), Pakistan and Afghanistan, and also the First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Kyrgyzstan took part in it.
The geography of the participants of this conference completely corresponds to the “Big Central Asia” concept developed at John Hopkins University (Baltimore, US) under the leadership of Frederick Starr (F. Starr was the adviser on Russia and Eurasia under three US Presidents, headed a governmental group on studying the problems of the Central Asian region, and participated in the development of the first complex strategic assessment of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee). The concept “Big Central Asia” stipulates the integration of the former Soviet Central Asia with Afghanistan and Pakistan under the patronage of the US.
According to General J. Votel, Washington assigns a leading role to Uzbekistan in respect of military cooperation concerning American-style integration of Central Asia. This concerns dragging Uzbekistan – and if possible, other countries of Central Asia too – into the Afghan conflict in order to “share” with them responsibility for a part of the US troops after their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The list of topics discussed at the conference of Chiefs of General Staffs also testifies to this.
The bilateral political consultations that took place at the same time as the conference of Chiefs of General Staffs testify to the special attention that Washington pays to Tashkent. The American First Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and the Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov participated in them. In the press release published by the US Embassy in Tashkent it is stressed that after the historical visit of Mirziyoyev to the US that took place in May of last year, there was a breakthrough in bilateral relations, and the visit itself opened “a new era of strategic partnership”. This was expressed also in money: according to A. Wells, the United States increased financial aid to Uzbekistan from 10.1 million in 2016 to 28.1 million in 2018.
The US makes the effort to develop military communications with other countries of the region too. On February 27th-28th the Director of Plans and Policy for CENTCOM Marine Corps Major General Michael E. Langley visited Kyrgyzstan, having arrived there from Tashkent. In Bishkek he held negotiations with the leadership of the General Staff and National Guard, which organised for him a demonstration of the skills of the Kyrgyz special troops.
After the July 2014 withdrawal from Kyrgyzstan of the only military base of the US in Central Asia, which was located at the Manas airport near Bishkek, the Americans very much want to return there. So far, they haven’t had much success in this, and the praise that was given to Uzbekistan wasn’t heard by the Kyrgyz leadership. The negotiations between the high-ranking American General and the top political brass of the republic also weren’t reported. Meanwhile, in Tashkent, before the conference of Chiefs of General Staffs, negotiations between General J. Votel and president Mirziyoyev took place.
On February 27 Alice Wells, speaking in Tashkent to students of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, reported that the American Peace Corps that operated in this republic from 1992 to 2005, but was forced to leave after disorder in Andijan (in Russia the activity of the Peace Corps was forbidden in 2002 due to suspicions of them carrying out espionage in favour of the US), may soon return to Uzbekistan.
Finally, in 2018 in Uzbekistan the American Councils were registered and became, according to A. Wells, the republic’s first American NGO since 2006.
All of this again expands the US’ possibilities to influence the political situation in Uzbekistan. In the conditions of demographic pressure, high unemployment, and the influence of Islamists, this is far from being safe. The advantage for the people of Uzbekistan of American-style integration is doubtful in the very least.
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