NATO’s Central Asian interests

By Arzu Naghiyev

The Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan) have entered a period of serious challenges related to the situation in Afghanistan.

According to official reports of Washington, the Western coalition forces must leave Afghanistan in 2014, and give place to the regime of Hamid Karzai. What can be the role of the region's countries in this process and what mutual benefit or other benefits is it possible to get from this?

The Western coalition forces have in Afghanistan 25 military and military-technical bases, 17 base stations. The infrastructure at the same time allows to control several regions of neighboring countries, including Russia and China.

At the same time new format is being considered as another option, according to which the U.S. military contingent will remain in Afghanistan by maintaining military bases and base stations, without interfering in the domestic military operations. This again may lead to civil war in Afghanistan. We can make assumptions due to promises that the U.S. military, given the loyal attitude toward them, are ready to establish relations with the neutral Taliban and even provide them with weapons. In any case, these processes will affect the Central Asian countries.

If we take into account the decision on the western coalition's withdrawal of NATO troops, military equipment and weapons, it becomes clear that one important factor is the route of withdrawal. As one of the options are negotiations about the route through Uzbekistan.

According to the relevant instruction from the White House, the U.S. State Department lifted temporary restrictions on military assistance to Uzbekistan. The ban concerned the U.S. military embargo against Tashkent after the Andijan events in 2005.

Condescending attitude towards Uzbekistan, taking into account its geopolitical position, accounts for the fact that Washington is planning to withdraw a significant part of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan through Uzbekistan. Despite the fact that there is not yet an official statement about, the number of visits by U.S. military envoys to Uzbekistan has recently increased.

U.S. Department of State spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Uzbekistan will receive military assistance, "limited in scope and certainly not lethal". This term usually refers to the supply of traumatic police weapons and equipment to disperse mass demonstrations.

Such a move when police is supplied with weapon by the country serving as the custodian of democratic values indicates the absence of other ways out. Hence, the main issue is to obtain the primary transit base for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Despite the fact that many countries offer their territory as a transit route or for creation of a database, none of them is an alternative to Uzbekistan even in terms of stability. At the same time, Uzbekistan, trying to prove that the country is conducting an independent domestic policy, is also trying to create a military alliance with such a country as the United States.

In spite of the fact that Uzbekistan is not the only country that can carry out these operations in terms of geographical location, and the fact that these operations do not extend to the entire contingent of the coalition, we can conclude that the Tashkent option definitely has great importance for Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visits to Central Asia twice visited Tashkent over the past two years. No capital of any other country in Central Asia has been deigned with such U.S. attention. It is clear that Tashkent considers this step as the U.S. proposal to sign a formal or informal agreement on strategic cooperation.