Hey look, Abu Muqawama just realized that we might have a deal to use Uzbekistan’s territory to resupply Afghanistan. This is, of course, OLD NEWS, and not something that just cropped up because Bakiyev decided to try to scare more money out of the U.S.
Stratfor at least has good maps.
Given that AM’s blog has written a lot about other overland resupply routes for Afghanistan due to the unreliability of the Khyber pass… where did he expect these supplies to come from? Uzbekistan is the only Central Asian country with a reasonably high-capacity border crossing across the Amu Darya, at least in the sense that it doesn’t force you into the Pamirs in Tajikistan. Turkmenistan is so unreliable, it would be foolish to plan a route through that country. Uzbekistan was our only real choice.
Then again, the U.S. warming its relations with Uzbekistan are not, contra the AP, some new thing that just materialized this week, but the ongoing result of months of negotiations. In March of 2008, Nathan was noting the opening of the Termez airbase to NATO countries for resupply; in April, again of 2008, I noted that this opening was good, but also not indicative of any seachange in U.S. policy in the area, since Karimov-American relations follow a fairly predicable warming-and-cooling pattern.
It is worth noting, too, that the deal with Uzbekistan would really involve opening the rail lines to Termez—a development with its own challenges, to say the least. But in the midst of all this, just how likely is it that the Kyrgyz will shutter Manas to the U.S.? Anara Yusupova noters that the situation there is not iron-clad, either:
“A great deal of time will pass from the announcement that the air base is to be withdrawn and the point when that actually happens in practice,” Temir Sariev, head of the opposition party Ak Shumkar told the Bishkek Press Club. “Anything could happen during that time, and new circumstances might arise.”
He concluded, “It’s too early to say the American air base is about to be removed from Kyrgystan in the near future. That’s all the more true given that this isn’t the first time Kurmanbek Bakiev has made a statement of this kind.”
Exactly. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times Bakiyev threatened to close down the base. So maybe we could all start breathing and take a few steps back, yes? The hyperventilating over supply routes is a bit premature.