Financial Times: US Considers Karimov Outreach

by Laurence on 5/18/2006 · 1 comment

In an article entitled Central Asia dilemma spurs US talk on reviving Uzbek ties, Guy Dinmore reports that Kipling’s Great Game may have been replaced by a Chinese board game:

Recent moves by the great powers in central Asia are beginning to resemble the ancient Chinese board game of Go, where the object is to gain territory by encirclement.

Dinmore claims that there is a “fierce internal debate on the merits of trying to rebuild broken links with Uzbekistan, the linchpin of central Asia” in the Bush administration, with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld opposing the State Department and Human Rights organizations.

The discussion has intensified this month with the first anniversary of mass killings that occurred in the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan. Those events, still hotly disputed by the Uzbek authorities, led to a breakdown in relations between Tashkent and Washington and the expulsion of US forces from Khanabad, their most important base in central Asia outside Afghanistan.

Dinmore quotes Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Meppen, who said the administration was debating whether to take “baby steps to gain traction” in Uzbekistan and wrestling over the extent to which morality should influence foreign policy. Meanwhile, Dinsmore says that a recent screening of Uzbek videos as the Hudson Institute “heightened the controversy this week by airing a video prepared by the Uzbek government that sets out its version of what happened in Andijan – that it was a planned uprising by Islamist militants, not a peaceful protest by unarmed civilians.”

Fred Starr, the chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of Johns Hopkins University, introduced the video and sharply criticised think-tanks, journalists and the CIA, arguing that research backed up the death toll claimed by the Uzbek authorities and that evidence of a planned jihad, or holy war, was “virtually overwhelming”.One State Department official, who asked not to be named, dismissed the accusations. “We see no reason to revise our assessment of what happened,” he said.

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Laurence May 19, 2006 at 7:09 am

Maybe this Bloomberg News story about US trouble with Kyrgyzstan (ht Eurasianet) explains the FT item:

U.S. May Lose Kyrgyz Base Used for Afghan Operations (Update1)

May 19 (Bloomberg) — Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic bordering China, will evict the U.S. from the military base it uses for operations in Afghanistan if it doesn’t agree to pay more rent, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said.

Kyrgyzstan wants the U.S. to pay $200 million a year for the base compared with a symbolic $2.7 million at present, Bakiyev said. The Taliban, which was the reason Kyrgyzstan offered to host U.S. troops in the first place, is now gone, he said.

“Five years have passed and the war in Afghanistan is over,” Bakiyev said in an interview in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek today. “We gave the U.S. a concrete bill for the base and if the U.S. thinks the price is unfounded, it should convince us otherwise.”

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