Why Uzbekistan Is a Bellwether of Stability in Central Asia

As we’re receiving conflicting reports today about the health of Uzbek president Islam Karimov — official sources say he suffered a stroke and has been hospitalized, other outlets report he’s dead — I thought it worth reiterating the geopolitical importance of his country.

Much of this is copied from an article I wrote last year, when American secretary of state John Kerry visited Uzbekistan and held talks with Karimov in Samarkand. Read more “Why Uzbekistan Is a Bellwether of Stability in Central Asia”

Kerry Visit Underscores Uzbekistan’s Pivotal Role

American secretary of state John Kerry answers questions from reporters in London, England, January 22
American secretary of state John Kerry answers questions from reporters in London, England, January 22 (State Department)

American secretary of state John Kerry met with Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, on Sunday. The rare high-level encounter with the septuagenarian autocrat underscores the strategic importance the United States attaches to his nation. Read more “Kerry Visit Underscores Uzbekistan’s Pivotal Role”

Putin Seeks Rapprochement in Uzbekistan

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at his country residence outside Moscow, October 13 (Kremlin)

On the day President Vladimir Putin visited former Soviet republic Uzbekistan, Russia’s Finance Ministry said it would write off most of the country’s $890 million debt.

Talks between Putin and Uzbek leader Islam Karimov, who has been in power since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, were also expected to focus on increasing Uzbek agricultural exports to Russia. Russia needs new suppliers after banning various European food imports in retaliation against Western sanctions over its aggression in Ukraine.

Karimov has staked out a more independent course from Moscow that most Central Asian leaders but nevertheless praised Russia on Wednesday for its “stabilizing” influence in the region.

Putin, in turn, said “Uzbekistan is one of Russian priority partners in the region.” Read more “Putin Seeks Rapprochement in Uzbekistan”

Uzbekistan Key to the Future Stability of Afghanistan

Despite the two state construct of Afghanistan and Pakistan within which American policymakers usually consider the former in the region, the role of Uzbekistan, with has deep relationships with and leverage over key Afghan assets, will grow in importance, especially if post 2014, conditions devolve into civil war.

By focusing squarely on the future influence of China, India and Iran in a post-2014 Afghanistan, American officials face the threat of being caught off guard by the ongoing contingency plans of Uzbek president Islam Karimov. Believed to have little faith in the Karzai government and its ability to function after the withdrawal of NATO forces by December 2014, Karimov’s administration, through its longstanding ties with northern, anti-Taliban forces, may exacerbate a potential conflict with military and financial support of anti-Islamist forces.

Karimov’s belief that post 2014, Afghanistan will descend into chaos is supported by the recent assassination of an ethnic Uzbek former mujahideen commander and key opposition figure, Ahmad Khan Samangani.

More worrying, Uzbekistan’s support of traditional anti-Taliban forces puts it indirectly in conflict with the main supporter of Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan, Pakistan. Read more “Uzbekistan Key to the Future Stability of Afghanistan”

Uzbekistan Turns Into American Ally in Central Asia

Two successful visits from State Secretary Hillary Clinton and a visit of the Uzbek parliamentary delegation to the United States point to an establishment of increasingly close ties between the two states.

The United States seek to cement their relationship with Uzbekistan, a valuable strategic ally in the region, in order to reopen a transit point on Uzbek territory. The United States aim to keep some military personnel and equipment in Central Asia after the anticipated withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and, as such, Washington is conducting bilateral talks with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. All three are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, with headquarters in Moscow. The United States’ bilateral strategic cooperation with either of these states would require the consent of the CSTO. Read more “Uzbekistan Turns Into American Ally in Central Asia”