Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hmmm.. U.S. Asked to leave Uzbekistan air base

One of the side games to the U.S. invasion of the middle east (a.k.a. The War on Terror) is the oil situation in the Central Asia countries that are of the former Soviet Union. There's quite a bit of oil up there, and I gather that there's a game afoot to control that oil. One of the games is the U.S. plan to run a pipeline through Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and to the sea from there.

This meant that the U.S. was in suport of the Uzbeki government. Conveniently the Uzbeki government has been giving the U.S. land area to operate air bases, that have been used as staging for U.S. forces going to Afghanistan and perhaps other conflict areas. One purpose has been the encirclement of Iran, apparently.

But earlier this year the Uzbeki government brutally supressed a protest. Suppressed, as in killed scores of people. That kinda suppression, where there's blood in the street and lots of crying.

US asked to leave Uzbek air base (Saturday, 30 July 2005, BBC.CO.UK)

Apparently U.S. diplomats have been expressing official consternation over that kinda suppression.

Flights into the K2 (Karshi-Khanabad) base had been reduced at the request of the Uzbek authorities, after the US criticised the government over events in Andijan.

And now the Uzbeki authorities are asking us to leave. The article doesn't quite connect these, perhaps because the U.S. officials are professing to "not know why the request had been made", but anybody who can read between the lines can see there's a disagreement brewing.

The eviction notice came days after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returned from a visit to Uzbek neighbours Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Officials in Kyrgyzstan affirmed that US forces could continue to use Manas air base for as long as the Afghan war requires.

Mr Rumsfeld said he did not believe US operations in Afghanistan would be hurt if Tashkent denied continued use of K2, because there are other options in the region.

Oh, whew, at least our subversion of Central Asia can continue unabated. But what about the oil pipeline?

Okay, I'm being a little tongue in cheek about this. It seems to me this is a setback to U.S. plans, but I'm glad it's because the U.S. authorities were complaining about Uzbeki brutality.

But, wait, there's more. Here's the NY Times coverage: Uzbeks Order U.S. From Base in Refugee Rift (By STEVEN R. WEISMAN, and THOM SHANKER, NY Times, Published: July 31, 2005)

Uzbekistan formally ordered the United States to leave an air base that has been a hub for operations in Afghanistan in protest over a predawn United Nations operation on Friday to spirit out refugees who had fled an uprising in Uzbekistan in May, senior State Department officials said Saturday.

The article goes on to explain about the refugees. That they went to Kyrgyzstan, and that there have been recommendations to relocate them to Romania (?for safety?). The article goes on to explain how the U.S. is insisting on reforms.

About 450 Uzbek refugees arrive in Romania (Turkish Daily News, Saturday, July 30, 2005) reports that exactly this happened. That 450 Uzbek refugees arrived Friday July 29 in Romania.

CENTRAL ASIA: Weekly news wrap (29 Jul 2005 09:36:11 GMT, Source: IRIN, reported by Reuters, published on AlertNet) This Reuters "central asia wrapup" also reports on the same thing, giving a few more details.

Most of the article is discussing health aid being provided to several of these countries. It's not clear what this health aid has to do with the U.S. being asked to leave Uzbekistan, or the refugees, but this is a "wrap up" article. The article also discusses the general expectation from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) calling on the U.S. to provide a timetable concerning pulling out of central asia. They are accepting of U.S. presence so long as its necessary for the operation in Afghanistan, but apparently not one moment longer.

The NY Times article ends on this interesting note:

Mr. Rumsfeld received assurances from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that the American military could continue to use bases in those Central Asian nations to support relief and counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

"We feel we've had a good arrangement and good relationships in a number of those countries in the region," Mr. Rumsfeld said during his travels. "And obviously from time to time things may be adjusted one way or another."

The issue has been a test of the Bush administration as it has tried to balance two of its most prized foreign policy goals: democratization and counterterrorism.

Pentagon and military officials pointed out that it remained unclear whether the eviction from the Uzbek base would halt all bilateral relations with a nation on the rim of one of the most unstable regions in the world.

Those in the United States government and the military who argue for carefully managed engagement, even with dictatorial governments, note that without any formalized Western influence in places like Uzbekistan, there would most likely be influence from less-democratic sponsors, like Russia or China.

Reading between the lines, saying "without formalized western influence" and contrasting it with "influence from less-democratic sponsors, like Russia or China" points in the direction of a game of influence. Both statements are grounded in the thought that large countries are going to control the destiny of certain client countries. And it implies a contest between the U.S., Russia, and China to establish influence over Central Asia.


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