MILITARY IN UZBEKISTAN

MILITARY IN UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan has the best-equipped armed forced in Central Asia. During the post-Soviet era, Uzbekistan has maintained the largest military force in Central Asia, totaling 50,000 to 55,000 active-duty personnel in 2006. However, the training and experience of this force are low, and the government has spent relatively little on replacing Soviet-era equipment. The military plans to eliminate conscription in the process of creating a smaller, more mobile professional force, but no deadline has been announced for that reform.In 2006 the active force was composed of 40,000 army personnel and 10,000 to 15,000 air force personnel. Some 17,000 to 19,000 internal security troops also were active. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

Military branches: Uzbek Armed Forces: Army, Air and Air Defense Forces (2013). Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 7,887,292; females age 16-49: 7,886,459 (2010 est.). Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 6,566,118; females age 16-49: 6,745,818 (2010 est.), Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 306,404; female: 295,456 (2010 est.). [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Military Service: 18 years of age for compulsory military service; 1-month or 1-year conscript service obligation for males. The government has discussed eliminating conscription and forming an all-professional army, but no deadlines have been announced and conscription in some form will continue. The military cannot accommodate everyone who wishes to enlist, and competition for entrance into the military is similar to the competition for admission to universities (2013). =

Defense Budget: In the early 2000s, Uzbekistan sharply reduced its defense expenditures as civil wars concluded in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the government recognized an over- commitment to defense. Between 2001 and 2003, defense expenditures decreased from US$74 million to US$52 million, but by 2005 they had increased again to US$60 million. The military budget in 1995 was estimated to be US$315 million. **

The president of Uzbekistan is the commander in chief of the armed forces, and he has authority to appoint and dismiss all senior commanders. The minister of defense and the chief of staff have operational and administrative control. Since early 1992, President Karimov has exercised his supreme authority in making appointments and in the application of military power. The staff structure of the armed forces retains the configuration of the Turkestan Military District. The structure includes an Operational and Mobilization Organization Directorate and departments of intelligence, signals, transport, CIS affairs, aviation, air defense, and missile troops and artillery. In 1996 total military strength was estimated at about 25,000. The armed forces are divided into four main components: ground defense forces, air force, air defense, and national guard. Army [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Development of the Uzbekistan Military

As it declared independence, Uzbekistan found itself in a much better national security position than did many other Soviet republics. In 1992 Uzbekistan took over much of the command structure and armaments of the Turkestan Military District, which was headquartered in Tashkent as the defense organization of the region of Central Asia under the Soviet system. With the abolition of that district the same year and a subsequent reduction and localization of military forces, Uzbekistan quickly built its own military establishment, which featured a gradually decreasing Slavic contingent in its officer corps. That inheritance from the Soviet era has enabled post-Soviet Uzbekistan to assume a role as an important military player in Central Asia and as the successor to Russia as the chief security force in the region. Following independence, Uzbekistan accepted all of the relevant arms control obligations that had been assumed by the former Soviet Union, and it has acceded to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a nonnuclear state. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

One week after independence was declared in August 1991, Uzbekistan established a Ministry for Defense Affairs. The first minister of defense was charged with negotiating with the Soviet Union the future disposition of Soviet military units in Uzbekistan. In enforcing its independent status in military matters, a primary consideration was abolishing the Soviet Union's recruitment of Uzbekistani citizens for service in other parts of the union and abroad. For this purpose, a Department of Military Mobilization was established. In early 1992, when international interest in a joint CIS force waned, the Ministry for Defense Affairs of Uzbekistan took over the Tashkent headquarters of the former Soviet Turkestan Military District. The ministry also assumed jurisdiction over the approximately 60,000 Soviet military troops in Uzbekistan, with the exception of those remaining under the designation "strategic forces of the Joint CIS Command." In the same period, the Supreme Soviet approved laws establishing national defense procedures, conditions for military service, social and legal welfare of service personnel, and the legal status of CIS strategic forces. *

A presidential decree in March 1992 declared the number of former Soviet troops in Uzbekistan to exceed strategic requirements and the financial resources of Uzbekistan. With the subsequent abolition of the Turkestan Military District, Uzbekistan established a Ministry of Defense, replacing the Ministry for Defense Affairs. The CIS Tashkent Agreement of May 15, 1992, distributed former Soviet troops and equipment among the former republics in which they were stationed. Among the units that Uzbekistan inherited by that agreement were a fighter-bomber regiment at Chirchiq, an engineer brigade, and an airborne brigade at Fergana. *

For the first two years, the command structure of the new force was dominated by the Russians and other Slav officers who had been in command in 1992. In 1992 some 85 percent of officers and ten of fifteen generals were Slavs. In the first year, Karimov appointed Uzbeks to the positions of assistant minister of defense and chief of staff, and a Russian veteran of the Afghan War to the position of commander of the Rapid Reaction Forces. Lieutenant General Rustam Akhmedov, an Uzbek, has been minister of defense since the establishment of the ministry. In 1993 Uzbekistan nationalized the three former Soviet military schools in Tashkent.

Russian Military Involvement in Central Asia

Large numbers of Soviet military forces were located in the five Central Asian republics when the Soviet Union dissolved officially at the end of 1991. All the newly independent states took measures to gain control over the Soviet units they inherited, establishing a variety of agencies and ministries to define the gradual process of localization. In the mid-1990s, as support grew in Russia for recapturing in some form the lost territories of the former Soviet Union, attention focused on the five Central Asian republics, which still had substantial economic and military ties with the Russian Federation. When the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, the main military force in Tajikistan was the 201st Motorized Rifle Division, whose position and resources the Russian Federation inherited. Although nominally neutral in the civil war that broke out in Tajikistan in the fall of 1992, the 201st Division, together with substantial forces from neighboring Uzbekistan, played a significant role in the recapture of the capital city, Dushanbe, by former communist forces. As the civil war continued in more remote regions of Tajikistan during the next three years, the 201st Division remained the dominant military force, joining with Russian border troops and a multinational group of "peace-keeping" troops (dominated by Russian and Uzbekistani forces and including troops from Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan) to patrol the porous border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

The openly avowed purpose of the continued occupation was to protect Russia's strategic interests. Those interests were defined as preventing radical Islamic politicization and the shipment of narcotics, both designated as serious menaces to Russia itself. Meanwhile, Tajikistan formed a small army of its own, of which about three-quarters of the officer corps were Russians in mid-1996. Tajikistan, having no air force, relied exclusively on Russian air power. In mid-1996 the preponderance of the estimated 16,500 troops guarding Tajikistan's borders belonged to Russia's Federal Border Service. Border troops received artillery and armor support from the 201st Division, whose strength was estimated in 1996 as at least 12,000 troops. *

Russia has kept more limited forces in the other Central Asian republics. Turkmenistan consistently has refused to join multilateral CIS military groupings, but Russia maintains joint command of the three motorized rifle divisions in the Turkmenistani army. Under a 1993 bilateral military cooperation treaty, some 2,000 Russian officers serve in Turkmenistan on contract, and border forces (about 5,000 in 1995) are under joint Russian and Turkmenistani command. Altogether, about 11,000 Russian troops remained in Turkmenistan in mid-1996. Uzbekistan has full command of its armed forces, although the air force is dominated by ethnic Russians and Russia provides extensive assistance in training, border patrols, and air defense. Kazakstan, which has the largest standing army (about 25,000 in 1996) of the Central Asian republics, had replaced most of the Russians in its command positions with Kazaks by 1995--mainly because a large part of the Russian officer corps transferred elsewhere in the early 1990s. No complete Russian units are stationed in Kazakstan, but an estimated 6,000 troops from the former Soviet 40th Army remained there in training positions in 1996, including about 1,500 at the Baykonur space launch center, which Russia leases from Kazakstan. *

In Kyrgyzstan, which has developed little military capability of its own, Russian units guard the border with China. But maintaining military influence in Kyrgyzstan has not been a high priority of Russian military planners; a 1994 bilateral agreement improves incentives for Russian officers to remain in the Kyrgyzstan's army on a contract basis through 1999, but, as in Kazakstan, the Russian exodus has continued. President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan lobbied for a larger Russian military presence to improve his country's security situation, but no action had been taken as of mid-1996. *

Armed Forces of Uzbekistan

Military branches: Uzbek Armed Forces: Army, Air and Air Defense Forces (2013). In 2006 the active force was composed of 40,000 army personnel and 10,000 to 15,000 air force personnel. Some 17,000 to 19,000 internal security troops also were active. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

In 2006 the ground forces were organized in four military districts, comprising two operational commands and one command in Tashkent. The major units were the following brigades: one tank, 10 motorized rifle, one light mountain infantry, one airborne, one air assault, and four artillery. The air force had seven fixed-wing and helicopter regiments. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

In the 1990s, Uzbekistan had one ground force corps, divided into three motorized rifle brigades, one tank regiment, one airborne brigade, one engineer brigade, and support units for aviation, logistics, and The ground forces had 20,400 troops, air force and air defense forces had an estimated 4,000 troops, border troops about 1,000, National Guard about 700. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The ground defense forces, largest of the four branches, numbered 20,400 troops in 1996, of which about 30 percent were professional soldiers serving by contract and the remainder were conscripts. The forces are divided into an army corps of three motorized rifle brigades, one tank regiment, one engineer brigade, one artillery brigade, two artillery regiments, one airborne brigade, and aviation, logistics, and communications support units. The ground forces' primary mission is to conduct rapid-reaction operations in cooperation with other branches. Combined headquarters are at Tashkent; the headquarters of the 360th Motor Rifle Division is at Termiz, and that of the Airmobile Division is at Fergana. (Although the force structure provides for no division-level units, they are designated as such for the purpose of assigning headquarters.)

Air Force and Air Defense

A treaty signed in March 1994 by Russia and Uzbekistan defines the terms of Russian assistance in training, allocation of air fields, communications, and information on air space and air defense installations. In 1995 almost all personnel in Uzbekistan's air force were ethnic Russians. The Chirchiq Fighter Bomber Regiment, taken over in the initial phase of nationalization of former Soviet installations, has since been scaled down by eliminating older aircraft, with the goal of reaching a force of 100 fixed-wing aircraft and thirty-two armed helicopters. According to the Soviet structure still in place, separate air and air defense forces operate in support of ground forces; air force doctrine conforms with Soviet doctrine. Some thirteen air bases are active. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In 1994 Uzbekistan's inventory of aircraft was still in the process of reduction to meet treaty requirements. At that stage, the air force was reported to have two types of interceptor jet, twenty of the outmoded MiG-21 and thirty of the more sophisticated MiG-29. For close air support, forty MiG-27s (foundation of the Chirchiq regiment) and ten Su-17Ms were operational. Twenty An-2 light transport planes, six An-12BP transports, and ten An-26 transports made up the air force's transport fleet. Training aircraft included twenty L-39C advanced trainers and an unknown number of Yak-52 basic trainers. Six Mi-8P/T transport helicopters were available. The air defense system consisted of twenty operational Nudelman 9K31 low-altitude surface-to-air missiles, which in 1994 were controlled by two Russian air defense regiments deployed along the Afghan border.

Military Equipment and Training

In 2006 the Uzbekistan army had 340 main battle tanks, 13 armored reconnaissance vehicles, 405 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 309 armored personnel carriers, 200 pieces of towed artillery, 83 pieces of self-propelled artillery, 96 mortars, 108 multiple rocket launchers, and 36 antitank guns. The air force had 136 combat aircraft, 29 attack helicopters, and 55 assault and transport helicopters. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

In 1996 Uzbekistan's active arsenal of conventional military equipment included 179 main battle tanks; 383 armored personnel carriers and infantry vehicles; 323 artillery pieces; forty-five surface-to-air missiles; and fifteen antitank guns. The air force was reported to have two types of interceptor jet, twenty of the outmoded MiG-21 and thirty of the more sophisticated MiG-29. For close air support, forty MiG-27s (foundation of the Chirchiq regiment) and ten Su-17Ms were operational. Twenty An-2 light transport planes, six An-12BP transports, and ten An-26 transports made up the air force's transport fleet. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Three major Soviet-built training facilities are the foundation of the military training program. The General Weapons Command Academy in Tashkent trains noncommissioned officers (NCOs); the Military Driving Academy in Samarkand is a transport school; and the Chirchiq Tank School trains armor units. In 1993 all three schools were stripped of the Soviet-style honorific names they bore during the Soviet period. Plans call for expansion of the three schools. Bilateral agreements with Russia and Turkey also provide for training of Uzbekistani troops in those countries. For aircraft training, Uzbekistan retains some Aero L-39C Albatross turbofan trainers and piston-engine Yak-52 basic trainers that had been used by the Soviet-era air force reserves. *

Some elite troops have been trained by United States and are equipped with American helmets and other gear. In the late 1990s, junior officers got paid only $30 a month.

Paramilitary Forces, Border and National Guard in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s security troops, under the administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and including internal security and border forces, number between 17,000 and 19,000 troops. The National Guard, under the administration of the Ministry of Defense, has about 1,000 troops. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

The National Guard was created immediately after independence (August 1991) as an internal security force under the direct command of the president, to replace the Soviet Internal Troops that had provided internal security until that time. Although plans called for a force of 1,000 troops including a ceremonial guard company, a special purpose detachment, and a motorized rifle regiment, reports indicate that only one battalion of the motorized rifle regiment had been formed in 1994. The National Guard forces in Tashkent, thought to number about 700, moved under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Security in 1994. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The Uzbekistan Border Troop Command was established in March 1992, on the basis of the former Soviet Central Asian Border Troops District. In 1994 the Frontier Guard, as it is also called, came under the control of the Ministry of Internal Security. The force, comprising about 1,000 troops in 1996, is under the command of a deputy chairman of the National Security Committee, which formerly was the Uzbekistan Committee for State Security (KGB). The Frontier Guard works closely with the Russian Border Troops Command under the terms of a 1992 agreement that provides for Russian training of all Uzbekistani border troops and joint control of the Afghan border.

Nuclear Weapons and Materials in Uzbekistan

There were no nuclear weapons in Uzbekistan in the Soviet era and there are none now. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the removal of Soviet nuclear weapons was not an issue as it was in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus. Karimov’s elder daughter Gulnara Karimova helped organize the Tashkent International Conference in which the “Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone” (CANWFZ) was declared.

In September 2004, eleven kilograms of highly enriched uranium, enough for a crude nuclear weapon, was secretly airlifted to Russia from a research laboratory in Tashkent. The material, from nuclear fuel assemblies, was kept in a research reactor and was a concern to U.S. officials who worried it might fall into the hands of terrorists.

Central Asia researcher Saltanat Berdikeeva wrote: “Uzbekistan’s location also allows smuggling of nuclear materials “from north to south, the opposite of the paths for drugs traveling from Afghanistan along the so-called “northern route” through Central Asia to Europe.” The Head of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Tashkent and President of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, Bekhzod Yuldashev, has been quoted as saying that “We have nuclear neighbors, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and India. Uzbekistan plays an important role. Transit [of all goods] is very intensive.” [Source: Saltanat Berdikeeva, China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Volume 7, No. 2 (2009) p. 75-100, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies >>>]

Biological Weapons on Vozrozrozhdenia Island

A top-secret facility in the Aral Sea on Vozrozhdeniye Island — now shared by shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan — was the world’s largest biological weapons testing ground and was one of the primary testing grounds for Russia's biological weapons using anthrax and other diseases. The island contains pens that held thousand of animals—rabbits, guinea pigs, monkeys, sheep, donkeys, mice, hamsters, horses and baboons—that were used in testing. Around 1,500 people lived there at its height. [Source: Christopher Pala, New York Times Magazine, January 12, 2002]

Gennadi Lepyoshkin, a scientist who worked at Vozrozhdeniye told the New York Times, “About one-third of our work was on weapons, like anthrax, plague and others bacteria, and two thirds on matters like testing vaccines or clothing or how long microorganisms would survive in the soil....The atmosphere was friendly, people were earning good money and we were provided with everything.” The workers used to sunbathe, dance and hunt ducks in their free time.

Much the testing involved giving disease-causing agents to animals. Lepyoshkin told the New York Times, “We used monkeys, about 200 to 300 each year. Our staff would take them out to the range”—25 kilometers from the town—“and they would put them in cages next to devises that the measured the concentration of germs in the air. Then after they were exposed, they would be taken to the labs, where we would test the labs, where we would test their blood and monitor the development of a disease in them. They would die within weeks, and we would perform autopsies..” The testing was usually only done in the summer when temperatures sore to 120°F to prevent the spread of the pathogens.

Lepyoshkin said, “There was always danger, but we never had an accidents. He recalled on incident in which a woman dropped a petri dish containing anthrax. She tried to hide her mistake but her accident was discovered. Here punishment: she was docked some money on her paycheck. “No one got sick,” Lepyoshkin said.

Vozrozhdeniye Island Today

Vozrozhdeniye Island, now shared by shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was shut down after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the level of the Aral Sea has dropped the island has become a peninsula connected to the mainland. The peninsula is uninhabited except for the occasion scavenger that goes there.

Large amounts of the strain of anthrax that killed people in Sverdlovsk are buried in pits on Vozrozhdeniye Island. There are concerns that terrorists could collect disease samples of the diseases could spread through animals or people that visit the site. Uzbekistan is particularly concerned because it plans to drill for oil near where the anthrax is stored.

One of the greatest worries is that wild rodents that live at the range and were exposed to weapons-grade plague may have survived, The plague that was used was not affected by antibiotics and is more contagious than the natural kinds. If this strain somehow spread to a scavenger and then the people there could be a very serious problem.

In 1995, an American teams discovered live anthrax spores on Vozrozhdeniye Island. The United States has earmarked $6 million for a program to decontaminate the site.

External Threats to Uzbekistan

As the dominant military power in its region, Uzbekistan faces no conventional military threats. The major external security concern is the Islamic groups that have sworn to replace the secular government of Uzbekistan with an Islamic state. This genuine threat also has been a pretext for increased domestic repression by the Karimov regime. In 1999 and 2000, the Uzbekistani military repulsed (with difficulty) guerrilla forces of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) as they attempted to move into Uzbekistan. In 2001–2, the IMU suffered severe losses in Afghanistan, and its known terrorist activities since 2001 have been outside Uzbekistan. However, in 2006 IMU activity reportedly resurfaced in the Kyrgyzstani and Tajikistani regions of the Fergana Valley, very close to Uzbekistan. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

Although its forces are small by international standards, Uzbekistan is rated as the strongest military power among the five Central Asian nations. In 1992 the Karimov regime sent military forces to Tajikistan to support forces of the old-guard communist Tajik government struggling to regain political power and oust the coalition government that had replaced them. Karimov's policy toward Tajikistan was to use military force in maintaining a similarly authoritarian regime to the immediate east. Although Tajikistan's civil war has had occasional destabilizing effects in parts of Uzbekistan, paramilitary Tajikistani oppositionist forces have not been strong enough to confront Uzbekistan's regular army. In the early 1990s, small-scale fighting occurred periodically between Tajikistani and Uzbekistani forces in the Fergana Valley. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In the mid-1990s, no military threat to Uzbekistan existed. An area of territorial contention is the Osh region at the far eastern end of the Fergana Valley where Kyrgyz and Uzbeks clashed violently in 1990. The Uzbeks have used the minority Uzbek population in Osh as a reason to demand autonomous status for the Osh region; the Kyrgyz fear that such a change would lead to incorporating the region into Uzbekistan. The primary role of the Uzbekistan Armed Forces is believed to be maintaining internal security. This is possible because Uzbekistan remains protected by Russia under most conditions of external threat. *

As defined in the 1992 Law on Defense, Uzbekistan's military doctrine is strictly defensive, with no territorial ambitions against any other state. Although its policy on the presence of CIS or Russian weapons has not been stated clearly, Uzbekistan's overall military doctrine does not permit strategic weapons in the inventory of the Uzbekistani armed forces. Battlefield chemical weapons, believed to have been in the republic during the Soviet period, allegedly have been returned to the Russian Federation. In 1994 Uzbekistan, like most of the other former Soviet republics, became a member of the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), providing the basis for some joint military exercises with Western forces.*

United States and Uzbekistan After September 11th

Through most the 1990s the United States gave Uzbekistan a cold shoulder because of its human rights record but the U.S. position against the Karimov regime changed after September 11th attack on the World Trade Center in New York and 2002 U.S. invasion against Afghanistan, which borders Uzbekistan. Karimov was welcomed warmly by President George Bush at the White House in Match 2002. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Tashkent on several occasions, the amount of America aid to Uzbekistan tripled and Uzbekistan agreed to help the United States respond to “any external threat.” The United States chose to ignore Uzbekistan's human rights record. It treats Iran and North Korea much more harshly than Uzbekistan even though all are oppressive dictatorships.

Under a 2002 strategic partnership agreement between Washington and Tashkent, the United States helped equip Uzbek military units and train them in combating terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and other threats. The United States was eager to pump economic and military aid into Uzbekistan. Foreign aid from the United States jumped from $36 million in 1998 to $500 million in 2002, including $120 million for the army and $96 for the SNB, Uzbekistan’s notorious secret police. Uzbekistan was one of the “coalition of the willing” that supported the United States in the war in Iraq in 2003. It did not send troops.

United States Military in Uzbekistan After September 11th

After September 11th, the Uzbekistan government extended use of its Karshi-Khanabad (K2) air base, about 25 miles from the Afghan border, to the U.S. for humanitarian missions such as food drops and CIA intelligence-gathering operations. It did not allow U.S.. forces to launch air strikes or attacks from Uzbekistan. The plan was for the Americans to stay three to five years. The American military also used Manas Airport in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The establishment of U.S. air bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan placed U.S. forces closer to Russia than they had ever been before. Tensions between Russia and the United States were predicted to rise if the bases stayed put. The bases marked the first time U.S. troops were stationed on territory of the former Soviet Union and first time Western soldiers operated in that part of the world since the time of Alexander the Great. Some said anti-American sentiments ran high because the U.S. government was accused or propping up the Karimov regime.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Uzbekistan and the United States began cooperating in covert operations aimed at countering the Taliban and its terrorist allies more than a year before the September 11 attacks. Details about the nature of the operations were a state secret. [Source: Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2001 */*]

Richard C. Paddock wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Uzbekistan, a harsh dictatorship still run by its Communist-era boss, Islam Karimov, formed an unexpected alliance with the United States to fight global terrorism after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The former Soviet republic has been the target of bombings allegedly carried out by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which wants to form an Islamic state in the country's mountainous northeast. Members of the group, which allegedly has links to Osama bin Laden, are now believed to be fighting on the side of the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan. */*

”After the terror attacks on the United States, Uzbekistan quickly agreed to allow the U.S. to base troops at Khanabad for humanitarian and search-and-rescue missions. Some Special Forces units were deployed along with troops from the 10th Mountain Division, prompting speculation that covert missions could also be launched from the base. The the two countries formally signed an agreement in Washington allowing the United States to use the Uzbek military base and the country's airspace for its operations. "We will work together to support delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan," the governments said in a joint statement. "We also commit ourselves to eliminate international terrorism and its infrastructure." */*

United States Military Presence After September 11th

Khandabad air base is located outside Karshi, a small city with 250,000 people, and about 200 kilometers from Termez, a historical Silk Road city. Most residents of the city never saw the soldiers. The Americans ensconced themselves in their own little closed city behind concrete walls and lived in air-conditioned tents arranged in a grid along streets given names like the Long Island expressway, Wall Street and Fifth Avenue. Villagers living near Kandabad had to dal with more security: police check points, travel restrictions, house to house searches and having their villages sealed off.

The air base was used mainly to airlift cargo and troops into Afghanistan. During the war in Afghanistan, the force included 1,000 troops from the elite 10th Mountain Division. They trained for ground operations in Afghanistan and possible search and destroy missions. By 2005, about 800 American military personnel were stationed at the American base in Uzbekistan. The Pentagon leased the base for $15 million.

The United States presence was widely viewed as a welcome cash infusion into the Uzbekistani economy. Karimov boasted about the “strategic relationship between” between Uzbekistan and the United States. Many ordinary Uzbeks said they supported the American campaign against terrorism The state-controlled media was flooded with reports of how the American presence was a good thing for Uzbekistan and how it helped Karimov reach his goal of getting rid of Muslim extremists.

Richard C. Paddock wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The American troops at Khanabad have operated under such a heavy veil of secrecy that it is unclear if any of them have stepped off the former Soviet air base in the 10 days since they began arriving. In Termez, the military presence is all Uzbek: Police operate checkpoints throughout the town, stopping and searching cars at random; border guards routinely stop visitors from taking photographs of the Friendship Bridge or Afghanistan in the distance.” */*

In Termez, many people have a hard time believing that any U.S. troops have landed in the country. "There are no American military forces here, only humanitarian," Shakhlo Turdieva, 20, a nurse in Termez told the Los Angeles Times. "We're not worried. Everything is peaceful here. Weddings are taking place. Even being so close to the border we don't see anything happening or harm done." Safar Yusupov, a 35-year-old accountant, said, "We haven't seen any Americans so far, so I don't think they will be coming," he said. "Uzbek forces are very strong here, and we don't need them." [Source: Richard C. Paddock, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2001]

Closing of the U.S. Base in Uzbekistan

In 2005 the United States withdrew all of the 1,750 troops that had been stationed at Karshi–Khanabad air base, southwest of Samarkand, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2006 some 163 German troops were stationed at an airfield in Termez in support of forces in Afghanistan. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

In July 2005, Uzbekistan told the United States it had to leave the Karshi-Khanabad air base. In accordance with the agreement the between the two countries. Uzbekistan gave the United States 180 days to get out. The last American troops left in November 2005. Some of the operations performed Karshi-Khanabad air base were switched to Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan.

Relations between Uzbekistan and the United States plummeted after the May 2005 attacks by government security forces in Andijan that left at least 200 dead. The United States military initially objected to an international investigation of the massacre out of fear of losing its military base in Uzbekistan but in the end decided to put human rights ahead of military concerns and supported an investigation and strongly condemned the massacre. Washington’s stand on the issue is believed to have been one of the primary reasons for the ousting of American forces from the military base in southern Uzbekistan.

Relations between Uzbekistan and the United States had been going downhill for a while. In July 2004, the United States announced it was cutting $18 million in aid in part because the Uzbekistan’s government lack of democratic reforms. Many analyst felt the presence of the American military in Uzbekistan did not help democratize Uzbekistan. Rather it had the had opposite effect, emboldening the dictatorial government to be more repressive than ever because of tacit U.S. support demonstrated by the base.

Nick Paton Walsh wrote in The Guardian, “Critics have accused the US of propping up one of the world's most brutal regimes in exchange for the base's short-term benefits...The New York Times also quoted a senior state department official as saying that the Uzbek demand was connected to US support for neighbouring Kyrgyzstan's refusal to send home those who had fled Uzbekistan after the Andijan massacre. [Source: Nick Paton Walsh, The Guardian, August 1, 2005]

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who was sacked after criticising western support for the Uzbek regime, said: "The US has managed to hand the dictator Karimov the propaganda coup of kicking out the world's greatest power. Western policy towards Uzbekistan has been unsustainable for a long time." He said the Uzbek decision to curtail relations with Washington was "due to a change-around in economic policy. There has been no significant investment from the west for a while; it's all Russian and Chinese state-owned companies." "Karimov took the decision years ago not to have democracy and capitalism, it just took the US a lot longer to work that out. "If they had any dignity they would have jumped before they were pushed." He said the move would put pressure on other central Asian states to turn away from the west, towards China and Russia, because of their reliance on Uzbekistan's resources.

Uzbekistan Says No Plans for New Us Military Base

In 2014, Uzbekistan denied it was in talks with Washington over a new US base after president Islam Karimov hosted a senior US military commander for talks. AFP reported: “A news report said this week that Tashkent was in talks with Washington over the possible opening of a new US base in the strategically located Central Asian state. President Islam Karimov hosted Commander of the US Central Command Lloyd Austin for security talks. During the meeting Karimov questioned the US commander on what role Washington intended to play in the region after the planned withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan, year, Uzbek national television reported. [Source: AFP, August 1, 2014 ^^^]

“The US embassy confirmed the meeting, saying Austin and his Uzbek hosts "exchanged views on a range of issues related to regional security." UzMetronom, an independent online news portal with close ties to Uzbek law enforcement agencies, said that Tashkent and Washington were in talks over the possible opening of a US base in the southern town of Termez close to the border with Afghanistan. ^^^

Uzbekistan denied the report on Friday. "Uzbekistan's laws do not allow to host any foreign military bases on its territory", Adilbek Kaipbergenov, spokesman for Uzbekistan's foreign ministry, told AFP in an emailed statement. The Uzbek leadership shut down the US base when relations with Washington became strained over its criticism of the Uzbek government's handling of an armed uprising in the eastern city of Andijan in 2005. But Uzbekistan, which boasts extensive railway links with Afghanistan, later permitted the US to use its territory to deliver non-military and humanitarian cargo to its troops across the border. German forces have been using the airport at Termez since 2002 and have about 300 troops stationed there, mostly maintenance crews.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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