The US military presence in Central Asia has strengthened the regimes of Asian leaders considerably
Today, the presidents of member countries of the Organization of Central Asiatic Cooperation meet for a summit in Dushanbe, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Tadjikistan. Since the eleven years after the breakup of the USSR, many organizations and communities were set up on post-Soviet territories for the sake of cooperation. It is hard to say whether these organizations are really effective, but they are still afloat.
The Organization of Central Asiatic Cooperation was founded on March 1, 2002; four Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tadjikistan, are its members. Turkmenistan didn’t join the organization, as it probably believed it made no sense. In any case, there is a problem, especially since we can hardly see any sufficient results from the activity of the organization.
Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov is currently the chairman of the organization. Today, he delivered a speech that could have been expected from him.
President Karimov told journalists that he objected to US soldiers leaving Central Asia, as their presence guaranteed peace and stability in the region. Certainly, he immediately corrected himself and added that Afghanistan was the place where peace and stability should be restored first of all. For this purpose, Karimov said, in addition to the maintenance of military bases, Americans should also appropriate large-scale financial aid to the government of Hamid Karzai. The Uzbekistan president even frightened his trans-oceanic partners a little and said that, if the Afghani population, which is experiencing rather hard times, receives no financial support, it won’t trust Hamid Karzai and the central government any longer, which will incite more inter-ethnic conflicts.
To tell the truth, the Uzbekistan president is more anxious to see that Hamid Karzai manages to maintain his authority in the country. It is an open secret that the US military presence in Central Asia has strengthened the regime of Islam Karimov and the regimes of his neighbors considerably. And although the US State Department strictly criticized the Central Asian leaders for human rights violations in their republics only two years ago, now the USA is ready to reconcile itself to this situation in the Asian republics for the sake of hunting down Osama bin Laden and crushing al-Qaeda. The USA no loner criticize these republics for human rights violation.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly clear that the popularity of radical Islamist groups has increased due to the policy of local regimes toward the population. To tell the truth, this popularity is still strong; only Muslims are underground groups now. Local authorities can’t cope with them; instead, they punish the democratic opposition, which, as is logically expected, should have been supported by the USA. However, moral support is one thing, and political expediency is quite another. The latter is obviously much more important for Washington now.
The summit will also touch upon many other important problems, for instance, the drug trade. Central Asia has long been known as a terminal station for heroin and opium traffic from Afghanistan. And the struggle with illegal trafficking has brought no considerable results. It is very likely that the ardent words of the Asian leaders about the struggle with drug traffic may end with an appeal to the USA for financing the struggle.
The summit in Dushanbe is occurs on the eve of another important event, the summit of CIS presidents, which will take place in the capital of Moldova, Kishinev. We will see next week if the two events have some any effect on each other.
Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru
Photo: Uzbek leader Islam Karimov
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/10/05/48023.html