Central Asia: Regional developments and implications for U.S. interests.
U.S. policy toward the Central Asian states has aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism; proliferation; and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons. Other U.S. objectives have included promoting free markets, democratization, human rights, energy development, and the forging of East-West and Central Asia-South Asia trade links. Successive Administrations have argued that such policies will help the states to become responsible members of the international community rather than to degenerate into xenophobic, extremist, and anti-Western regimes that contribute to wider regional conflict and instability. Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, all the Central Asian "front-line" states offered over-flight and other support for coalition anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan hosted coalition troops and provided access to airbases. In 2003, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also endorsed coalition military action in Iraq. About two dozen Kazakhstani troops served in Iraq until late 2008. Uzbekistan rescinded U.S. basing rights to support operations in Afghanistan in 2005 after the United States criticized the reported killing of civilians in the town of Andijon. The Kyrgyz leadership has notified the United States that it will not extend the basing agreement. U.S. forces will exit the "Manas Transit Center" by mid-2014 and move operations to other locations. In recent years, most of the regional states also have participated in the Northern Distribution Network for the transport of U.S. and NATO supplies into and out of Afghanistan.
Policy makers have tailored U.S. policy in Central Asia to the varying characteristics of these states. U.S. interests in Kazakhstan have included securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear and biological weapons materials and facilities. U.S. energy firms have invested in oil and natural gas development in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and successive administrations have backed diverse export routes to the West for these resources. U.S. policy toward Kyrgyzstan has long included support for its civil society. In Tajikistan, the United States focuses on developmental assistance to bolster the fragile economy and address high poverty rates. The United States and others have urged the regional states to cooperate in managing their water resources. U.S. relations with Uzbekistan--the most populous state in the heart of the region--were cool after 2005, but recently have improved. Congress has been at the forefront in advocating increased U.S. ties with Central Asia, and in providing backing for the region for the transit of U.S. and NATO equipment and supplies into and out of Afghanistan. Congress has pursued these goals through hearings and legislation on humanitarian, economic, and democratization assistance; security issues; and human rights.
During the 113th Congress, the Members may review assistance for bolstering regional border and customs controls and other safeguards, in order to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), combat trafficking in persons and drugs, and counter terrorism. Other possible interests include encouraging regional integration with South Asia and Europe and fostering energy and other resource security. Support for these goals also has been viewed as contributing to U.S. and NATO stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. For several years, Congress has placed conditions on assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan because of concerns about human rights abuses and lagging democratization (the Secretary of State may waive such conditions). Congress will continue to consider how to balance these varied U.S. interests in the region as U.S. and NATO military operations wind down in Afghanistan.
Contents Most Recent Developments Historical Background Overview of U.S. Policy Concerns Post-September 11 and Afghanistan Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom Fostering Pro-Western Orientations Russia's Role China's Role Obstacles to Peace and Independence: Regional Tensions and Conflicts Islamic Extremism and Terrorism Terrorism and Conflict in Kazakhstan Incursions and Violence in Kyrgyzstan The 2010 Ethnic Clashes in Kyrgyzstan Attacks by Jama'at Kyrgyzstan Jaish al-Mahdi in 2010-2011 Terrorism and Conflict in Tajikistan The 1992-1997 Civil War in Tajikistan The 2010-2011 Attacks in Tajikistan The 2012 Instability in Mountainous Badakhshan Terrorism and Conflict in Uzbekistan The 2005 Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan The Summer 2009 Suicide Bombings and Attacks in Uzbekistan U.S. Designation of the IMU and IJU as Terrorist Organizations Democratization and Human Rights Recent Political Developments in Kazakhstan Recent Political Developments in Kyrgyzstan Recent Political Developments in Tajikistan Recent Political Developments in Turkmenistan Recent Political Developments in Uzbekistan Human Rights Trade and Investment U.S. Regional Economic and Trade Policy The New Silk Road Vision Energy Resources Kazakhstan's Oil and Gas Turkmenistan's Gas Uzbekistan's Oil and Gas U.S. Regional Energy Policy U.S. Aid Overview Congressional Conditions on Kazakh and Uzbek Aid U.S. Security and Arms Control Programs and Assistance Closure of the Karshi-Khanabad Airbase Efforts to Improve Security Relations The Manas Airbase/Transit Center The Status of the Manas Transit Center after the April 2010 Coup Fuel Contract Developments The Wind-down of the Manas Transit Facility The Northern Distribution Network to and from Afghanistan Weapons of Mass Destruction 113th Congress Legislation Figures Figure 1. Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan Tables Table 1. U.S. Trade Turnover, 2013 Table 2. U.S. Foreign Assistance to Central Asia, FY1992 to FY2015 Table 3. U.S. Assistance to Central Asia, FY1992-FY2001 Table 4. U.S. Assistance to Central Asia, FY2002-FY2010 (and Totals, FY1992-FY2010) Contacts Author Contact Information
Most Recent Developments
Visiting Uzbekistan on March 16-19, 2014, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Fatema Sumar reportedly stressed that the United States wanted to deepen its cooperation with the country. She highlighted Uzbekistan's central role in the Administration's New Silk Road Vision for Central and South Asia, which includes fostering regional resource and energy markets, trade and transport infrastructure, and customs service and border protection (see below, "The New Silk Road Vision").
Kazakh officials have raised concerns about Russia's military actions in Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimea region. These concerns have been exacerbated by renewed calls in recent days by some Russian ultra-nationalists for annexing northern Kazakhstan, where many ethnic Russians reside. These developments could spur Kazakhstan to reassess its close ties to Russia, according to some observers. (1) On March 10, 2014, President Obama and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed developments in Ukraine during a telephone call. President Nazarbayev called for the crisis to be settled peacefully with Ukraine's territorial integrity maintained. He reportedly accepted Obama's request to assist in mediating the crisis. President Nazarbayev also had called German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss developments in Ukraine. Nazarbayev's press spokesman stated that the president sympathized with Russia's view that Russian citizens and speakers should be safeguarded, but urged Putin to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty in line with international law. He also raised concerns (including in another call to Putin on March 3) that the crisis might impact economies belonging to the Customs Union (Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus) and ties within the Commonwealth of Independent States (Putin placed the blame on actions by the Ukrainian interim government). After President Putin issued a decree on March 17 recognizing Crimea's "independence" following its referendum vote, and ordered the legislature to approve annexation, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued a statement recognizing the referendum as a free expression of the people's will and indicating "understanding" of Russia's annexation decision. (2)
On March 11, 2014, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry issued a statement that since former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had lost the trust of his people and had fled Ukraine, he was no longer the legitimate president. The ministry called for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. After the Crimean referendum on March 16, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry stated that the vote represented the will of the people. At the same time, the ministry appeared cautious not to judge Russia's actions, urging "all sides to demonstrative maximum restraint and resolve all the disputed issues through peaceful talks." (3)
In early March 2014, President Nazarbayev called for the Defense Ministry to accelerate weapons acquisition and reform efforts, and ordered boosted military deployments in the south and west of the country to deal with rising threats, including those associated with possible instability in Afghanistan after U.S. and NATO forces are drawn down.
In late February 2014, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced that additional helicopters and airborne troops had been deployed at Russia's Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan.
In mid-February, the Los Angeles Times alleged that the U.S. government was exploring possible access to air bases in Central Asia for unmanned aerial vehicle missions in northwest Pakistan in case all U.S. forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of the year. (4)
On February 11, 2014, Kazakhstan effectively devalued its currency by about 20% compared to the U.S. dollar. Several protests occurred in Almaty and other cities and some runs on banks were reported. President Nursultan Nazarbayev argued that the devaluation was necessary to promote economic growth in 2014. Just three weeks previously, he had pledged to uphold the stability of the Kazakh economy in his state-of-the-nation address.
In early February 2014, Kyrgyz security personnel arrested six alleged terrorists in southern Kyrgyzstan, some of whom were said to have received combat experience in Syria. The group reportedly was active in recruiting Kyrgyz citizens to fight in Syria. The Kyrgyz National Security Committee reportedly stated that up to 50 Kyrgyz citizens were fighting in Syria. Later in the month, the agency announced the arrest of four more alleged terrorists, who were said to have received training abroad and were planning attacks in Kyrgyzstan. On March 12, 2014, a Kyrgyz official reported that Islamic extremist activities were increasing in southern Kyrgyzstan, and that Kyrgyz citizens who had returned from fighting in Syria were contributing to the problem.
Uzbekistan has praised language in Consolidated Appropriations for FY2014 (P.L. 113-76) that directs that international financial institutions be informed that it is U.S. policy to oppose assistance for building large hydroelectric dams. Uzbekistan views the language as opposing Kyrgyzstan's Kambar-Ata-1 and Tajikistan's Roghun hydroelectric dam projects. (5)
Central Asia consists of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan; it borders Russia, China, the Middle East, and South Asia. The major peoples of all but Tajikistan speak Turkic languages (the Tajiks speak an Iranian language), and most are Sunni Muslims (some Tajiks are Shiia Muslims). Most are closely related historically and culturally. By the late 19th century, Russian tsars had conquered the last independent khanates and nomadic lands of Central Asia. By the early 1920s, Soviet power had been imposed; by 1936, five "Soviet Socialist Republics" had been created in the region. Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, they gained independence. (6)
Overview of U.S. Policy Concerns
After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, then-President George H. W. Bush sent the "FREEDOM Support Act" aid authorization to Congress, which was amended and signed into law in October 1992 (P.L. 102-511; aid provisions were included as Part I, Chapter 11 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, P.L. 87-195). In 1999, congressional concerns led to passage of the "Silk Road Strategy Act" (P.L. 106-113), which authorized enhanced policy and aid to support conflict amelioration, humanitarian needs, economic development, transport and communications, border controls, democracy, and the creation of civil societies in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Since FY2003, Congress has conditioned foreign assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on their progress in respecting human rights (with national security waivers for Kazakhstan, and more recently, for Uzbekistan) (see below, "Congressional Conditions on Kazakh and Uzbek Aid"). Since FY2013, the Administration has included assistance to Central Asia under the authority of the Economic Support Fund (Part II, Chapter 4 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, P.L. 87-195).
U.S. policy makers and others hold various views on the appropriate types and levels of U.S. involvement in the region. Some have argued that ties with "energy behemoth" Kazakhstan are crucial to U.S. interests. (7) Others have argued that Uzbekistan is the "linchpin" of the region (it is the most populous regional state and is centrally located, shaping the range and scope of regional cooperation) and should receive the most U.S. attention.
In general, U.S. aid and investment have been viewed as strengthening the independence of the Central Asian states and forestalling Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or other efforts to subvert them. Advocates of U.S. ties have argued that political turmoil and the growth of terrorist enclaves in Central Asia could produce spillover effects both in nearby states, including U.S. allies and friends such as Turkey, and worldwide. They also have argued that the United States has a major interest in preventing terrorist regimes or groups from illicitly acquiring Soviet-era technology for making weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They have maintained that U.S. interests do not perfectly coincide with those of its allies and friends, that Turkey and other actors possess limited aid resources, and that the United States is in the strongest position as the sole superpower to influence democratization and respect for human rights. They have stressed that such U.S. influence will help alleviate social tensions exploited by Islamic extremist groups to gain adherents. They also have argued that for all these reasons, the United States should maintain military access to the region even after most or all U.S. and NATO forces exit Afghanistan. (8)
Central Asia: Basic Facts Total area: 1.6 million sq. mi., larger than India; Kazakhstan: 1.1 m. sq. mi.; Kyrgyzstan: 77,000 sq. mi.; Tajikistan: 55,800 sq. mi.; Turkmenistan: 190,000 sq. mi.; Uzbekistan: 174,500 sq. mi. Total population: 64.97 million, slightly less than France; Kazakhstan: 17.74 m.; Kyrgyzstan: 5.55 m.; Tajikistan: 7.91 m.; Turkmenistan: 5.11 m.; Uzbekistan: 28.66 m. (July 2013 est., The World Factbook.) Total gross domestic product: $414.74 billion in 2012, slightly less than Belgium. Per capita GDP is about $6,400, slightly less than Bhutan. There are large income disparities and relatively large percentages of people in each country are in poverty. Kazakhstan: $23 1.3 b.; Kyrgyzstan: $13.47 b.; Tajikistan: $17.72 b.; Turkmenistan: $47.55 b.; Uzbekistan: $104.7 b. (The World Factbook, purchasing power parity.)
Some views of policy makers and academics who previously objected to a more forward U.S. policy toward Central Asia appeared less salient after September 11, 2001--when the United States came to stress counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan--but aspects of these views could again come to the fore as such operations wind down in Afghanistan in 2014. These observers argued that the United States historically had few interests in Central Asia and that developments there remained largely marginal to U.S. interests. They also argued that the United States should not try to foster democratization among cultures they claimed are historically attuned to authoritarianism. Some observers rejected arguments that U.S. interests in antiterrorism, nonproliferation, regional cooperation, and trade outweighed concerns over democratization and human rights, and urged reducing or cutting off most aid to repressive Central Asian states. A few observers pointed to instability in the region as a reason to eschew deeper U.S. involvement such as military access that could needlessly place more U.S. personnel and citizens in danger.
The Obama Administration has listed six objectives of what it terms an enhanced U.S. engagement policy in Central Asia:
* to maximize the cooperation of the states of the region with coalition counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, particularly cooperation on hosting U.S. and NATO airbases and on the transit of troops and supplies to and from Afghanistan along the Northern Distribution Network (NDN; see below, "The Northern Distribution Network to and from Afghanistan"). This objective is becoming less central as coalition efforts wind down.
* A related goal is a stable region to serve as part of a "Silk Road" of north-south trade and communications links to increase the development and diversification of the region's energy and other resources and supply routes;
* to promote the eventual emergence of good governance and respect for human rights;
* to foster competitive market economies;
* to combat the trafficking of narcotics and people; and
* to sustain nonproliferation.
Signs of this enhanced engagement have included U.S. senior-level diplomatic visits and annual meetings of the U.S.-Central Asia Council on Trade and Investment (see below). In 2009, the Obama Administration also launched high-level Annual Bilateral Consultations (ABCs) with each of the regional states on counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, democratic reforms, the rule of law, human rights, trade, investment, health, and education.
In February 2012, the State Department announced that it was elevating relations with Kazakhstan to the level of a strategic partnership dialogue by transforming the bilateral ABC into a Strategic Partnership Commission, similar to the ones with Georgia and Ukraine. However, unlike these, no formal charter has been released. The first meeting of this Commission took place in April 2012 in Washington, DC, during which political, economic, and scientific working groups discussed plans for bilateral projects. The second meeting took place in July 2013 in Washington, DC, hosted by visiting Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov and Secretary Kerry. The United States praised Kazakhstan's "leadership role" in supporting security in Afghanistan, including through assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces and a university scholarship program. The United States pledged continued support for Kazakhstan's peacekeeping brigade and the annual Steppe Eagle military exercise and for its efforts to join the World Trade Organization, and agreed to a U.S. trade and investment delegation visit to Kazakhstan during 2014. (9)
In late January 2014, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that the governments of the Central Asian states continue to be concerned about regional instability following the drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He suggested that Central Asian militants currently harbored in Afghanistan and Pakistan would continue to pose a threat to the Central Asian region, but sources of internal regional instability would probably remain more of a threat. Such instability includes uncertain political succession contingencies, endemic corruption, weak economies, ethnic tensions, and political repression. Regional cooperation remains stymied by personal leadership rivalries and disputes over water, borders, and energy. While intra-regional relations are tense, chances of conflict are reduced by the attention the regional leaders must devote to maintaining internal control. (10)
Among relevant policy statements, former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake appeared to emphasize U.S. security interests in testimony in November 2010 when he stated that "Central Asia plays a vital role in our Afghanistan strategy.... A stable future for Afghanistan depends on the continued assistance of its Central Asian neighbors, just as a stable, prosperous future for the Central Asian states depends on bringing peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan." Appearing at the same hearing as Blake, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney stated that "from the Department of Defense perspective ... our focus is on the support for the effort in Afghanistan, but that is accompanied by the longer-term security assistance projects, including a variety of training efforts in areas from counterterrorism to counternarcotics that are building capabilities in those countries that are important for reasons well beyond Afghanistan." (11)
At the same time, then-Assistant Secretary Blake in July 2010 refuted the arguments of critics "that this Administration is too focused on the security relationship with [Central Asian] countries and forgets about human rights." He stated that human rights and civil society issues "will remain an essential part of our dialogue equal in importance to our discussion on security issues." (12)
Similarly, in congressional testimony in July 2012, he argued that "the path to progress on [human rights] is more engagement with these governments, not less." (13)
In a speech in October 2012, then-Assistant Secretary Blake underlined that the Central Asian countries have an important role in ensuring the security of Afghanistan after 2014. He averred that the Silk Road Vision (see below, aimed to integrate Afghanistan into the larger regional economy and hailed the NDN (see below, "The Northern Distribution Network to and from Afghanistan") as one means to boost private sector trade between Central and South Asia. He praised Central Asian economic cooperation with Afghanistan and stated that U.S. efforts to encourage economic and security ties between the Central Asian states and Afghanistan had provided opportunities to advocate for greater democratization and respect for human rights in Central Asia. (14)
Nisha Biswal was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs on October 21, 2013. At her confirmation hearing, she praised Kazakhstan as a leader among the Central Asian states in supporting stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. She stated that "expanding greater regional connectivity and linking economies and markets will be one of my top priorities." She stated that "Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have agreed to build a rail line linking their two countries via Afghanistan," as one example of developing "important regional infrastructure linkages" (although the mentioned links go around Uzbekistan), and pointed to Turkmenistan's long-time promotion of a gas pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan as another example. She claimed that all the regional states were working toward or thinking of accession to the World Trade Organization. She stated that she would encourage U.S. private sector and academic collaboration with regional organizations on issues of food security, water management, climate change, and infectious diseases. She stressed that although the United States would work with the regional states to counter terrorism and extremism, she would advocate democratization so that people have peaceful avenues for expressing dissent. She pledged to remain engaged with Uzbekistan to end forced labor and to address other human rights concerns, and to champion freedom of religion throughout the region. (15)
Recent contacts between Central Asian leaders and President Obama and Secretaries Clinton and Kerry and other U.S. officials have included the following:
* The President met on April 11, 2010, with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC. A joint statement reported that they "pledged to intensify bilateral cooperation to promote nuclear safety and nonproliferation, regional stability in Central Asia, economic prosperity, and universal values." President Obama encouraged Kazakhstan to fully implement its 2009-2012 National Human Rights Action Plan. President Nazarbayev agreed to facilitate U.S. military air flights along a new trans-polar route that transits Kazakhstan to Afghanistan, and President Obama praised Kazakh assistance to Afghanistan. (16)
* Then-Secretary Clinton visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan in early December 2010. In Kazakhstan, she participated in the OSCE Summit. She also met briefly with Tajik President Rahmon and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow on the sidelines of the Astana Summit. In Uzbekistan, she signed an accord on scientific cooperation as one means, she explained, to further U.S. engagement with the country.
* During her October 22-23, 2011, visit to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, then-Secretary Clinton discussed the Silk Road Vision (see below, "Trade and Investment") to turn Afghanistan into a regional transportation, trade, and energy hub linked to Central Asia. She also warned the presidents of both countries that restrictions on religious freedom could contribute to rising religious discontent.
* President Obama met with President Nazarbayev at the nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea, in March 2012. President Obama hailed Kazakhstan's efforts to secure nuclear materials inherited from the former Soviet Union. (17)
* Secretary Kerry met with visiting Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov in March 2013. Kerry stated that Uzbekistan is providing "very important" support for the NDN and infrastructure aid to Afghanistan, but also emphasized that bilateral ties were not limited to Afghan-related issues. (18)
* Secretary Kerry met with visiting Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov in July 2013 to convene a session of the bilateral Strategic Partnership Commission (see above). During the visit, Idrissov also met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
* (However, during Kamilov's December 2013 U.S. visit, he reportedly met with the State Department's Deputy Secretary William Burns, among others.)
* (However, during his mid-March 2014 U.S. visit, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov reportedly met with Deputy Secretary Burns, among others.)
Post-September 11 and Afghanistan
After the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State B. Lynn Pascoe testified that the former Bush Administration realized that "it was critical to the national interests of the United States that we greatly enhance our relations with the five Central Asian countries" to prevent them from becoming harbors for terrorism. (19) All the Central Asian states soon offered over-flight and other assistance to U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition operations in Afghanistan. The states were predisposed to welcome such operations. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan had long supported the Afghan Northern Alliance's combat against the Taliban, and all the Central Asian states feared Afghanistan as a base for terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking (even Turkmenistan, which had tried to reach some accommodation with the Taliban). The U.S.-led coalition's overthrow of the Taliban and routing of Al Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IIMU; see below) terrorists in Afghanistan increased the security of Central Asia.
According to then-Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch in testimony in June 2002, "our military relationships with each [Central Asian] nation have matured on a scale not imaginable prior to September 11th." Crouch averred that "for the foreseeable future, U.S. defense and security cooperation in Central Asia must continue to support actions to deter or defeat terrorist threats" and to build effective armed forces under civilian control.
As outlined by Crouch and as affected by subsequent developments, security relationships include
* a "critical regional partnership" with Kyrgyzstan in OEF, providing basing for U.S. and coalition forces at Manas. The Defense Department plans to transition from the base by July 10, 2014 (see below).
* a base in Uzbekistan for U.S. operations at Karshi-Khanabad (K2; U.S. troops reportedly numbered less than 900 just before the 2005 pullout, see below), a base for German units near Termez (in early 2014, The Military Balance reported that there were 100 German troops at the base), and a land corridor to Afghanistan for aid via the Friendship Bridge and a rail link at Termez.
* an agreement with Tajikistan to use its international airport in Dushanbe for refueling ("gas-and-go") and the country's hosting of a French air detachment (these troops departed in 2013).
* over-flight and other support by Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. (20)
To obtain Uzbekistan's approval for basing, the 2002 U.S.-Uzbek Strategic Partnership Declaration included a nonspecific security guarantee. The United States affirmed that "it would regard with grave concern any external threat" to Uzbekistan's security and would consult with Uzbekistan "on an urgent basis" regarding a response. The two states pledged to intensify military cooperation, including "reequipping the Armed Forces" of Uzbekistan.
In 2009, most Central Asian states agreed to facilitate the air and land transport of U.S. and NATO nonlethal supplies (and later of lethal equipment by air) to Afghanistan as an alternative to land transport via increasingly volatile Pakistan. In 2012, most of the states approved the reverse transit of supplies and equipment out of Afghanistan. For further details, see below, "The Northern Distribution Network to and from Afghanistan."
Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan were the only Central Asian states that joined the "coalition of the willing" in 2003 that endorsed U.S.-led coalition military operations in Iraq. Uzbekistan subsequently decided not to send troops to Iraq. In August 2003, Kazakhstan deployed some two dozen troops to Iraq who served under Polish command and carried out water-purification, demining, and medical activities. They pulled out in late 2008.
Fostering Pro-Western Orientations
The United States has encouraged the Central Asian states to become responsible members of the international community by providing bilateral aid and through coordination with other aid donors. The stated policy goal is to discourage radical anti-democratic regimes and terrorist groups from gaining influence. All the Central Asian leaders publicly embrace Islam but display hostility toward Islamic fundamentalism. At the same time, they have established some trade and aid ties with Iran. Some observers argue that, in the longer run, their foreign policies may not be anti-Western but may more closely reflect some concerns of other Islamic states. Some Western organizational ties with the region have suffered in recent years, in particular those of the OSCE, which has been criticized by some Central Asian governments for advocating democratization and respect for human rights. (21) Despite this criticism, President Nazarbayev successfully pushed for Kazakhstan to hold the presidency of the OSCE in 2010 (see below).
In early 2006, the State Department incorporated Central Asia into a revamped Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. According to former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Mann, "institutions such as NATO and the OSCE will continue to draw the nations of Central Asia closer to Europe and the United States," but the United States also will encourage the states to develop "new ties and synergies with nations to the south," such as Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. (22) Other observers, however, criticized the State Department action, arguing that it deemphasized efforts to integrate the region into European institutions, subordinated U.S. ties with Central Asia to the U.S. strategic calculus regarding Afghanistan and to other U.S. ties with South Asia, and provided an opportunity for Russia and China to move into the breach to assert greater influence. (23)
Some observers warn that after the U.S. and NATO drawdown in Afghanistan, Russian and Chinese influence will grow in the region. Russia's CSTO may seek greater military influence in the region, while Russia and China may compete more openly and intensively for economic influence. Russia will seek to strengthen economic influence through the Customs Union and other integration initiatives. These observers also suggest that European Union (EU) influence will remain constrained for some time by its economic recovery problems. (24)
The EU has been more interested in Central Asia in recent years as the region became more of a security threat as an originator and transit zone for drugs, weapons of mass destruction, refugees, and persons smuggled for prostitution or labor. Russia's cutoff of gas supplies in 2006 and 2009 to Ukraine--which hindered gas supplies transiting Ukraine to European customers--also bolstered EU interest in Central Asia as an alternative supplier of oil and gas. Such interests contributed to the launch of a Strategy Paper for assistance for 2002-2006 and a follow-on for 2007-2013 (see below), and the EU's appointment of a Special Representative to the region. The EU implemented Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs, which set forth political, economic, and trade relations) with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. An existing Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe (INOGATE) program was supplemented in 2004 and 2006 by a Baku Energy Initiative and an Astana Energy Ministerial Declaration to diversify energy supplies (see "Energy Resources," below).
In June 2007, the EU approved a new "Central Asian strategy" for enhanced aid and relations for 2007-2013. It argued that the EU ties with the region needed to be enhanced because EU enlargement and EU relations with the South Caucasus and Black Sea states brought it to Central Asia's borders. The strategy also stressed that "the dependency of the EU on external energy sources and the need for a diversified energy supply policy in order to increase energy security open further perspectives for cooperation between the EU and Central Asia," and that the "EU will conduct an enhanced regular energy dialogue" with the states. Under the strategy and an associated Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance to Central Asia for the Period 2007-2013, also promulgated in 2007, the EU set up offices in all the regional stated except Turkmenistan. The EU reports that allocations over the period 2007-2012 totaled 435 million euros. Kazakhstan received about 50 million euros, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan each received over 100 million euros, and regional programs received 133 million euros. EU emissaries held dozens of meetings and seminars each year with the Central Asian states on such issues as human rights, civil society development, foreign policy and assistance, trade and investment, environmental and energy cooperation, and other issues. (25)
In November 2013, the EU announced a new development program for Central Asia with funding of one billion euros over the period 2014-2020. The EU program calls for the largest amount of assistance to be devoted to democratization and sustainable economic growth. Kazakhstan was deemed to not need bilateral assistance but remained eligible for thematic and regional aid. (26) In late January 2014, the EU's Special Representative to Central Asia stepped down, and the responsibilities were assumed by officials in the European External Action Service. Some observers raised concerns about this lower-level official engagement with Central Asia. (27)
During most of the 1990s, successive U.S. administrations generally viewed a democratizing Russia as serving as a role model in Central Asia. Despite growing authoritarian tendencies in Russia during the presidencies of Vladimir Putin (2000-2008, and again after his re-election in 2012) and Dmitriy Medvedev (2008-2012), successive U.S. administrations have emphasized that Russia's counter-terrorism efforts in the region broadly support U.S. interests. At the same time, successive administrations have stressed to Russia that it should not seek to dominate the region or exclude Western and other involvement. Virtually all U.S. analysts agree that Russia's actions should be monitored to gauge whether it is vitiating the independence of the Central Asian states.
Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Russia acquiesced to increased U.S. and coalition presence in the region for operations against Al Qaeda and its supporters in Afghanistan. Besides Russia's own concerns about Islamic extremism in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and its own North Caucasus, it was interested in boosting its economic and other ties to the West and regaining some influence in Afghanistan. In the later part of the 2000s, however, Russia appeared to step up efforts to counter U.S. influence in Central Asia and reassert its own "great power" status by advocating that the states increase economic and strategic ties with Russia and limit such ties with the United States. This stance included backing and encouragement for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to close their U.S. airbases. Such a stance appeared paradoxical to U.S. officials, since Russia (and China) benefitted from anti-terrorism operations carried out by U.S. (and NATO) forces in Afghanistan. Improved U.S.-Russia relations during President Obama's first term in office appeared to include some Russian cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, but the status of such cooperation has appeared more uncertain in recent months, according to some observers.
During the 1990s, Russia's economic decline and demands by Central Asia caused it to reduce its security presence, a trend that Vladimir Putin since 2000 has appeared determined to reverse. In 1999, Russian border guards were largely phased out in Kyrgyzstan, the last Russian military advisors left Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan withdrew from the Collective Security Treaty (CST; see below) of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in part because the treaty members failed to help Uzbekistan meet the growing Taliban threat in Afghanistan, according to Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
Despite these moves, Russia appeared determined to maintain a military presence in Tajikistan. It has retained from the Soviet period the 201st motorized infantry division of about 5,000 troops subordinate to Russia's Central Military District. Some Russian officers reportedly help oversee these troops, many or most of whom are ethnic Tajik noncommissioned officers and soldiers. Tajik Frontier Force border guards also receive support from the 201st division. (28)
Russia's efforts to formalize a basing agreement with Tajikistan dragged on for years, as Tajikistan endeavored to charge rent and assert its sovereignty. In October 2004, a 10-year basing agreement was signed, formalizing Russia's largest military presence abroad, besides its Black Sea Fleet. At the same time, Tajikistan demanded full control over border policing. Russia announced in June 2005 that it had handed over the last guard-house along the Afghan-Tajik border to Tajik troops (a few dozen Russian border advisors remained).
In October 2009, visiting President Rahmon reportedly urged then-President Medvedev to pay rent on Russia's base facilities in Tajikistan. At a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2011, then-President Medvedev announced that he and Rahmon had made progress in reaching agreement on extending the basing agreement for another 49 years, and that an accord would be signed in early 2012. Some media reported that Tajikistan was calling for up to $300 million in annual rent payments. Also at the meeting, the two presidents agreed that the number of Russian border advisors reportedly would be reduced from 350 to 200, and that they would more closely cooperate with the Tajik border force.
President Rahmon met with newly inaugurated President Putin in Moscow on the sidelines of a CIS summit in mid-May 2012, and the two leaders agreed to continue the apparently contentious discussions on extending the basing agreement. During President Putin's early October 2012 visit, the two leaders agreed to a basing agreement through the year 2042. President Rahmon was unsuccessful in getting Russia to pay more on the base lease, but Russia pledged added military modernization assistance. Of great significance for Tajikistan, Putin agreed that work permits for Tajik migrant laborers would be extended from one to three years. Tensions rose, however, as Tajikistan lagged in ratifying the accord. According to some observers, President Rahmon delayed ratification of the basing agreement pending Moscow's full support for his re-election in November 2013. Other observers point to President Rahmon's late May 2013 visit to China, where he and President Xi Jinping signed a strategic partnership agreement that included pledges to deepen cooperation on security issues and to support Tajikistan as it assumed the rotating leadership of the SCO in late 2013. According to another view, Tajikistan was resisting pressure from Moscow to re-admit Russian border forces along the Tajik-Afghan border.
Meeting with President Putin in Moscow on August 1, 2013, President Rahmon announced that he soon would submit the basing agreement for legislative approval, and the legislature duly affirmed the accord in early October 2013. (29)
In a seeming shift toward a more activist role in Central Asia, in April 2000, Russia called for the signatories of the CST to approve the creation of rapid reaction forces to combat terrorism and hinted that such forces might launch preemptive strikes on Afghan terrorist bases. These hints elicited U.S. calls for Russia to exercise restraint. Then-President Clinton and Putin agreed in 2000 to set up a working group to examine Afghan-related terrorism (this working group later broadened its discussions to other counter-terrorism cooperation; it has continued to meet under the Obama Administration). CST members agreed in 2001 to set up the Central Asian rapid reaction force headquartered in Kyrgyzstan, with Russia's troops in Tajikistan comprising most of the force (this small force of 3,000 to 5,000 troops has held exercises and supposedly is dedicated to border protection; in 2009 it was supplemented by a larger 20,000-troop rapid reaction force with a supposedly wider mission). (30) CIS members in 2001 also approved setting up an Anti-Terrorism Center (ATC) in Moscow, with a branch in Kyrgyzstan, giving Russia influence over regional intelligence gathering.
Perhaps as a result of the establishment of a U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan after the September 11, 2001, attacks (see "The Manas Airbase" below), Russia in September 2003 signed a 15-year military basing accord with Kyrgyzstan providing access to the Kant airfield, near Kyrgyzstan's capital of Bishkek. The base is a few miles from the U.S.-led coalition's airbase. Russia attempted to entice Kyrgyzstan in early 2009 to close the Manas airbase by offering the country hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loans. However, after Kyrgyzstan agreed to continued U.S. use of the airbase in mid-2009 as a "Transit Center," Russia reneged on some of this funding and requested that Kyrgyzstan grant Moscow rights to another airbase near Uzbekistan's border. Uzbekistan denounced this plan, and it appeared to be put on hold. With the U.S.-Russia "reset" of relations during President Obama's first term in office, Russia's opposition to the continued operation of the Manas Transit Center seemingly diminished, but by May 2012, the Russian Foreign Ministry hailed a statement by Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev that he had decided not to renew the lease on the U.S. Transit Center.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Kyrgyzstan and met with President Atambayev on September 20, 2012. The two sides signed a 15-year extension to Russia's lease on "unified" military facilities in the country, including the Kant airbase, operated as part of the CSTO. Russia's rent payment for using the facilities--reportedly $4.5 million per year--reportedly did not change, although issues of training and Kyrgyzstan's supply of free utilities to the facilities reportedly were addressed. The two sides also signed accords canceling one $190 million Kyrgyz debt and restructuring another $300 million loan (the latter had been given by Putin to Kyrgyzstan in 2009). Another agreement pledged assistance by Russian firms in building several hydropower projects, including a renewed commitment to assist with the Kambarata-1 dam and hydroelectric power station (see also below). In a joint statement, Atambayev pledged to close the U.S. Transit Center at Manas in 2014, and Putin pledged to consider assistance to help convert the Transit Center facilities to civilian use. Hailing agreements that further integrated the two countries militarily and economically, President Atambayev stated at a press conference that "Russia is our main strategic partner.... We do not have a future separate from Russia." (31)
Besides Russia's military presence in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Russia's 2009 National Security Strategy called for the country to play a dominant role in Caspian basin security. Russia's Caspian Sea Flotilla has been bolstered by troops and equipment in recent years. A security cooperation agreement signed at a Caspian littoral state summit on November 18, 2010, states that Caspian basin security is the exclusive preserve of the littoral states. Some observers have viewed this agreement as reflecting Russia's objections to U.S. maritime security cooperation initiatives (see below, "U.S. Security and Arms Control"). (32)
Taking advantage of Uzbekistan's souring relations with many Western countries in 2005 (see below, "The 2005 Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan"), Russia signed a Treaty on Allied Relations with Uzbekistan in November 2005 that called for mutual defense consultations in the event of a threat to either party (similar to language in the CST). Uzbekistan rejoined the CST Organization (CSTO; see below) in June 2006. Uzbekistan declined to participate in rapid reaction forces established in June 2009 because of concerns that the forces could become involved in disputes between member states. On June 20, 2012, Uzbekistan informed the CSTO that it was suspending its membership in the organization, including because the CSTO was ignoring its concerns. However, Uzbek officials stated that the country would continue to participate in the CIS air defense system and other military affairs under the Allied Relations Treaty. According to some observers, the withdrawal of Central Asia's largest military from the CSTO highlighted the organization's ineffectiveness. (33) In June 2012, President Karimov visited China and met with then-President Hu Jintao, and the two leaders signed a strategic partnership agreement. Commenting on this accord in September 2012, President Karimov stated that "China is indeed the most reliable strategic partner for us." (34) Some observers also have suggested that Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the CSTO was linked to a hoped-for greater role in the NDN for the transit of equipment and materials to and from Afghanistan (see below, "The Northern Distribution Network to and from Afghanistan").
Uzbekistan strongly objected to the September 2012 Russia-Kyrgyz agreement on constructing the Kambarata-1 dam, asserting that talks should include all countries along the watershed (the Naryn River, the proposed site of the dam, flows into the Syr Darya River through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan). At a meeting of the Russia-Uzbek Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission in December 2012, the two sides agreed to seek an international assessment of the dam's environmental impact before construction is started. A report in March 2014 did not mention this assessment, but indicated that Russia was finalizing a feasibility study for the Kambarata-1 hydropower station and that a funding decision would be made thereafter. (35)
On November 11, 2013, visiting President Nazarbayev and President Putin signed a treaty on good neighborly relations and cooperation. As a prelude to the visit, Putin submitted a Kazakhstan-Russia agreement on joint air defenses, signed in January 2013, to the Russian Federal Assembly for approval. The air defense cooperation is reportedly more robust than that provided under the joint CIS air defense system shared by Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan. Under the accord, a headquarters will be set up in Almaty. Kazakhstan nominally will still be in charge of its air defense system in peacetime, but the system will be jointly operated in case of war. (36)
Many observers suggest that the appreciative attitude of Central Asian states toward the United States in the early 2000s--for their added security accomplished through U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan--has declined over time. Reasons may include perceptions by the states that the United States has not provided adequate security or economic assistance. Russian media outlets in Central Asia also have propagandized heavily against U.S. activities and policies, and this propaganda may well have influenced public opinion in the region. Russia likewise has warned regional leaders that the United States backs democratic "revolutions" to replace them. Lastly, Russia has claimed that it can ensure regional security after the planned drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. (37)
As Russia's economy improved in the 2000s--as a result of increases in oil and gas prices--Russia reasserted its economic interests in Central Asia. Russia has endeavored to counter Western business and gain substantial influence over energy resources through participation in joint ventures and by insisting that pipelines cross Russian territory. The numbers of migrant workers from Central Asia have increased, and worker remittances from Russia are significant to the GDPs of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and are a source of Russian leverage.
However, Russia's efforts to maintain substantial economic interests in Central Asia face increasing competition from China, which has substantially increased its regional aid and trade activities. Perhaps to constrict growing Chinese economic influence, a Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union began operating in mid-2011. In an article in October 2011, then-Prime Minister Putin called for boosting Russian influence over Soviet successor states through the creation of an economic, political, and military "Eurasian Union." In late October 2013, President Nazarbayev accused Russia of controlling the governing body of the Customs Union, even though the staffers were supposed to be international bureaucrats. He also complained that the Customs Union had resulted in an increase in imports into Kazakhstan and a decrease in exports, harming Kazakh businesses. During a November 2013 visit to Russia, President Putin reportedly refuted this assertion, arguing that Kazakhstan's exports to Russia were increasing. (38) At a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Commission (governing body of the Customs Union and the larger Eurasian Economic Community) in early March 2014--after Russian forces had entered Ukraine's Crimea--Kazakhstan and Moldova indicated that they were ready to move forward with plans to form a Eurasian Union. However, Nazarbayev reportedly called for a secretariat to be formed before the rules and procedures of the Eurasian Union are worked out, perhaps indicating some concerns about protecting Kazakhstan's sovereignty within the Eurasian Union, according to some observers. (39)
Even before he was elected president of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev called for the country to join the Customs Union. In December 2013, however, President Atambayev rejected a road map promulgated by the Eurasian Economic Commission for Kyrgyzstan's admission to the Customs Union. Kyrgyz officials complained they had not been invited to participate in drawing up the plan and that their written proposals had been inadequately addressed.
China's objectives in Central Asia include ensuring border security, non-belligerent neighbors, and access to trade and natural resources. In April 1996, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan traveled to Shanghai to sign a treaty with China's then-President Jiang Zemin pledging the sanctity and substantial demilitarization of borders. They signed protocols that they would not harbor or support separatists, aimed at China's efforts to quash separatism in its Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang Province, which borders Central Asia. In April 1997, the five presidents met again in Moscow to sign a follow-on treaty demilitarizing the 4,000 mile former Soviet border with China. In May 2001, the parties admitted Uzbekistan as a member and formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), agreeing to combat the "three evils" of terrorism, extremism and separatism (see also below, "Obstacles to Peace and Independence: Regional Tensions and Conflicts").
After September 11, 2001, SCO members did not respond collectively to U.S. overtures but mainly as individual states. China encouraged Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. China benefitted from the U.S.-led coalition actions in Afghanistan against the IMU and the Taliban, since these groups had been providing training and sustenance to Uighur extremists.
Most analysts do not anticipate Chinese territorial expansion into Central Asia, though China is seeking greater economic influence. China is a major trading partner for the Central Asian states and may become the dominant economic influence in the region. In comparison, Turkey's trade with the region is much less than China's. Central Asia's China trade turnover exceeded $1 billion annually by the late 1990s and thereafter expanded greatly, reportedly reaching $40 billion in 2013. Chinese purchases of oil and gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan accounted for most of this expansion. (40)
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have been deft in building relations with China. They have cooperated with China in delineating borders, building roads, and increasing trade ties. The construction of oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to China's Xinjiang region mark China's growing economic influence in the region. However, officials in these states also have been concerned about Chinese intentions and the spillover effects of tensions in Xinjiang. Some have raised concerns about growing numbers of Chinese traders and immigrants, and there are tensions over issues like water resources. China's crackdown on dissidence in Xinjiang creates particular concern in Kazakhstan, because over one million ethnic Kazakhs reside in Xinjiang and many Uighurs reside in Kazakhstan. Some ethnic Kyrgyz also reside in Xinjiang. On the other hand, Kazakhstan fears that Uighur separatism in Xinjiang could spread among Uighurs residing in Kazakhstan, who may demand an alteration of Kazakh borders to create a unified Uighur "East Turkestan." China's relations with Tajikistan improved with the signing of a major agreement in May 2002 delineating a final section of borders in the Pamir Mountains shared by the two states.
In 1993, China abandoned its policy of energy self-sufficiency, making Central Asia's energy resources attractive. In September 1997, Kazakhstan granted the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) production rights to develop major oil fields, including the Aktyubinsk Region of northwestern Kazakhstan. In succeeding years, China greatly increased its energy investments in Central Asia, including in oil and gas fields and pipelines. According to some observers, China's energy investments in Central Asia may soon eclipse Russia's (For more recent information on China's energy role in Central Asia, see below, "Energy Resources."). (41)
In September 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited all the regional states except Tajikistan (President Rahmon had visited China and met with President Xi Jinping in May 2013). The Chinese president reportedly signed agreements in Kazakhstan for up to $30 billion, in Turkmenistan for $8 billion, in Uzbekistan for $15 billion, and in Kyrgyzstan for $3 billion, as part of a more robust policy of increasing trade with the region and encouraging the development of east-west transport links. In a speech at Nazarbayev University in Astana on September 7, 2013, President Xi Jinping stressed that China had worked in Central Asia more than 2,100 years ago to establish the silk road to Europe, and was endeavoring since the Central Asian states gained independence to re-vitalize the silk road as a priority area of China's foreign policy. He pledged that China would never interfere in the internal affairs of the regional states, would not seek to dominate regional affairs, and would not establish a sphere of influence over the region. He called for the Central Asian governments to share information with China on economic policies and for greater cooperation between the SCO and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Community in order to strengthen a "silk road economic belt." As a practical matter, he called for finishing road interconnections between the Pacific Ocean and Baltic Sea ports. (42)
The increased U.S. and NATO presence in Central Asia and Afghanistan since the early 2000s may have delayed China's objective of becoming the dominant Asian power. Some observers suggest that after the drawdown of U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan in 2014, there may be greater competition between Russia and China for influence in the region. This competition had previously been set aside to some degree as both powers were focused on monitoring and limiting the scope of U.S. and NATO regional influence, according to these observers. China may seek to gain greater influence in Central Asia to counter a U.S. pivot to Asia, which it considers to be a containment policy, in this view. (43)
Obstacles to Peace and Independence: Regional Tensions and Conflicts
The legacies of co-mingled ethnic groups, convoluted borders, and emerging national identities pose challenges to stability in all the Central Asian states. Emerging national identities accentuate clan, family, regional, and Islamic self-identifications. Central Asia's convoluted borders fail to accurately reflect ethnic distributions and are hard to police, hence contributing to regional tensions. Ethnic Uzbeks make up sizeable minorities in the other Central Asian countries and Afghanistan. In Tajikistan, they make up almost one-quarter of the population and in Kyrgyzstan they make up over one-seventh. More ethnic Turkmen reside in Iran and Afghanistan--over 3 million--than in Turkmenistan. Sizeable numbers of ethnic Tajiks reside in Uzbekistan, and 7 million in Afghanistan. Many Kyrgyz and Tajiks live in China's Xinjiang province. The fertile
Ferghana Valley is shared by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The central governments have struggled to maintain control over administrative subunits. Most observers agree that the term "Central Asia" currently denotes a geographic area more than a region of shared identities and aspirations, although it is clear that the land-locked, poverty-stricken, and sparsely populated region will need more integration in order to fully develop.
On the one hand, the Central Asian states have wrangled over water-sharing, border delineation, trade and transit, and other issues:
* Tajikistan's relations with Uzbekistan have been problematic, including disagreements about water-sharing, Uzbek gas supplies, the mining of borders, border demarcation, and environmental pollution. In July 2008, the head of the Tajik Supreme Court asserted that Uzbek security forces had bombed the Supreme Court building the previous summer as part of efforts to topple the government. In late 2010, Uzbekistan began a transit slowdown and other economic measures to pressure Tajikistan to halt building the Roghun power plant (see below, "Trade and Investment").
* Turkmenistan's relations with Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have been tense. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have rival claims to some Caspian Sea oil and gas fields. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have vied for regional influence and argued over water-sharing. In 2002, the Turkmen government accused Uzbek officials of conspiring to overthrow it. Uzbekistan also objected to the treatment of ethnic Uzbeks in Turkmenistan under the previous president. In February 2014, Uzbekistan sentenced four citizens to 15-18 years in prison on charges of spying for Turkmen intelligence on water-supply, border security, and other issues.
* The Kyrgyz premier rejected claims by Karimov in 2005 that Kyrgyzstan had provided training facilities and other support for the Andijon militants (see below, "The 2005 Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan"). Karimov again accused Kyrgyzstan in late May 2009 of harboring terrorists whom had attacked across the border. After the April 2010 coup in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan tightened border controls with this country, greatly harming its economy. Conflict between ethnic Uzbeks and ethnic Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 further strained relations between the two countries (see below, "The 2010 Ethnic Clashes in Kyrgyzstan'"). In January 2013, Kyrgyz border guards wounded five residents of the Uzbek enclave of Sokh in Kyrgyzstan's Batken Region, bordering Uzbekistan. The residents allegedly had attempted to block an incursion into Sokh by the Kyrgyz border guards. Up to 1,000 residents then temporarily took over three dozen Kyrgyz hostage. (44) Kyrgyzstan closed a road from Uzbekistan to the enclave and began construction of a barbed wire fence around the enclave, and in response, Uzbekistan closed a road from Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyz enclave of Barak in Uzbekistan. In late July 2013, gunfire was exchanged by border troops along a section of the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border, resulting in some Uzbek casualties. Further tightening of Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan borders ensued. However, border demarcation talks have been stepped up in 2014, apparently in an effort to ameliorate some border tensions. (45)
On the other hand, there have been some high-level bilateral contacts:
* The leaders of regional powers Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have held occasional bilateral summits in recent years. In September 2012, visiting President Karimov issued a joint statement with President Nazarbayev on regional water-sharing. One observer suggested that this summit was an effort by the two major regional powers to join together to spur greater region-wide integration, including common responses to security threats such as terrorism and instability in Afghanistan. (46) In June 2013, visiting President Nazarbayev and President Karimov signed a strategic partnership treaty pledging both sides to develop economic, transportation, communications, military-technical, and cultural cooperation. The treaty also called for cooperation in resolving regional water sharing issues. Both leaders asserted that since they headed the leading states in the region, they needed to meet regularly to discuss regional and global cooperation. Karimov argued that the two countries are not regional economic rivals, since they have complementary natural resources and can provide for their own food and energy needs, and Uzbekistan emphasizes cotton growing while Kazakhstan emphasizes grain. He also stated that the two leaders had agreed that "any hydroelectric plants, which are planned for construction on the upstream of the [Syr Darya and Amu Darya] rivers ... must undergo an international and independent expert examination under the U.N. auspices and have to be agreed with the downstream countries." Nazarbayev indicated interest in developing transport routes through Uzbekistan to the south. (47)
* Since Berdimuhamedow came to power, relations between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have improved. In October 2012, President Karimov visited Turkmenistan and met with President Berdimuhamedow, and the two leaders discussed boosting trade and other cooperation. They also called for region-wide talks before Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan build dams that could affect water-sharing. President Berdimuhamedow visited Uzbekistan in late November 2013. The two leaders signed a joint declaration outlining the basic principles of bilateral cooperation. It called for jointly advocating a regional water management system. The two sides reported that they discussed enhancing security cooperation in preparation for the U.S. and NATO wind-down of operations in Afghanistan. The two leaders also met in February 2014 when both attended the Sochi Olympics. In recent months, both Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have worked more with Turkmenistan than with Uzbekistan on developing southern transport routes.
Regional cooperation remains stymied by tensions among the states, despite their membership in various groups such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP). The Collective Security Treaty was signed by Russia, Belarus, the South Caucasus countries, and the Central Asian states (except Turkmenistan) in May 1992 and called for military cooperation and joint consultations in the event of security threats to any member. At the time to renew the treaty in 1999, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan formally withdrew. The remaining members formed the CSTO in late 2002, and a secretariat opened in Moscow at the beginning of 2004. Through the CSTO, Russia has attempted to involve the members in joint efforts to combat international terrorism and drug trafficking. Although the charter of the CSTO does not mention internal or external peacekeeping functions, follow-on agreements have provided for such activities.
Neither former Kyrgyz President Akayev nor former President Bakiyev apparently requested the aid of the CSTO during the coups that overthrew them, and the CSTO has appeared inactive during other crises in the region. At a CSTO meeting in June 2010 to consider an urgent request by interim Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva for troops to assist in quelling ethnic violence, a consensus could not be reached and the members only agreed to provide equipment. At a CSTO summit in December 2011, the members reportedly agreed on detailed procedures for intervening in domestic "emergency" situations within a member state at the behest of the member. (48) At a CSTO summit in December 2012, President Rahmon reportedly complained that although many documents had been signed over the years, there had been "no practical results." (49)
The SCO was established in 2001 by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In 2003, what is now termed the SCO Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure (RCTS) was set up in Uzbekistan. Several military and security exercises have been held. According to some reports, in recent years Russia has discouraged the holding of major SCO military exercises as well as the strengthening of economic ties within the SCO, although Moscow has been amenable to cooperation within the SCO on regional oil and gas issues. (50)
In late 2007, the Central Asian states prevailed on the U.N. to set up a Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) to facilitate diplomatic and other cooperation to prevent internal and external threats to regional security. With its headquarters in Ashkhabad, the Center is headed by a special representative of the U.N. secretary-general. The Center was intended to take on some of the duties of the U.N. Tajikistan Office of Peace-Building, which had been established after the Tajik Civil War and was being closed. The Center's mandate includes monitoring regional threats and working together and with other regional organizations to facilitate peacemaking and conflict prevention. Priority concerns include cross-border terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking, regional water and energy management, environmental degradation, and stabilization in Afghanistan. The Center's special representative visited Kyrgyzstan several times in the wake of the April 2010 coup to discuss U.N. aid to the interim government to ensure peace and stability. The Center has held several regional conferences on such issues as Aral Sea desiccation, water-sharing, and Afghanistan. In approving a report by the head of UNRCCA to the UNSC in January 2014, the UNSC stressed the need for further cooperation among the regional states in overcoming challenges to peace and stability, including in countering terrorism and dealing with regional water-sharing issues. They welcomed regional cooperation with the U.N. Counter-terrorism Implementation Task Force and UNRCCA's liaison with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
In May 2009, the OSCE established a Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe to train officers from OSCE member and partner countries, including Afghanistan.
Islamic Extremism and Terrorism
Calls for government to be based on Sharia (Islamic law) and the Koran are supported by small but increasing minorities in most of Central Asia. Most of Central Asia's Muslims appear to support the concept of secular government, but the influence of fundamentalist Salafist and extremist Islamic groups is growing. (51) In particular, Central Asian leaders have pointed to the ongoing conflict against the Taliban in Afghanistan as justifying constraints on Islamic expression in their countries. They also have pointed to Tajikistan's 1992-1997 civil war, when Islamic extremism played some role, and Russia's conflict with its breakaway Chechnya region and other areas in Russia's North Caucasus as evidence of the terrorist threat. In some regions of Central Asia, such as Uzbekistan's portion of the Fergana Valley, some Uzbeks kept Islamic practices alive throughout the repressive Soviet period, and some now oppose the secular-oriented Uzbek government. Islamic extremist threats to the regimes may be fueled somewhat by economic distress among sections of the population. Heavy unemployment and poverty rates among youth in the Fergana Valley are widely cited by observers as making youth more vulnerable to recruitment into religious extremist organizations. (52)
Although much of the attraction of Islamic extremism in Central Asia is generated by factors such as poverty and repression, it is facilitated by groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere that provide funding, education, training, and manpower to individuals and groups in the region. Some of these ties were at least partially disrupted by the U.S.-led coalition actions in Afghanistan and the U.S. call for worldwide cooperation in combating terrorism. (53)
The Central Asian states impose several controls over religious freedom. All except Tajikistan forbid religious parties such as the Islamic Renaissance Party (Tajikistan's civil war settlement included the party's legalization), and maintain Soviet-era religious oversight bodies, official Muftiates, and approved clergy. The governments censor religious literature and sermons. According to some analysts, the close government religious control may leave a spiritual gulf that underground radical Islamic groups seek to fill.
Terrorist actions aimed at overthrowing regimes have been of growing concern in all the Central Asian states. Some analysts caution that many activities the regimes label as terrorist--such as hijacking, kidnapping, robbery, assault, and murder--are often carried out by individuals or groups for economic benefit or for revenge, rather than for political or religious purposes. Also, so-called counter-terrorism may mask clan or other ethnic and political repression.
Terrorist activities of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and similar groups in the region were at least temporarily disrupted by U.S.-led coalition actions in Afghanistan, where several of the groups were based or harbored. (54) Many observers, however, warn that terrorist cells have re-formed and are expanding in Central Asia and that surviving elements of the IMU and other terrorist groups are infiltrating from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Ominously, the IMU and its splinter group, the Islamic Jihad Group/Union (IJU), have become even more closely allied with international terrorist groups, particularly Al Qaeda. Moreover, the IMU and IJU have expanded their activities beyond Central and South Asia to other areas of the globe.
In congressional testimony in February 2013, then-Assistant Secretary Blake stated that "we do not assess that there is an imminent Islamist militant threat to Central Asian states." Nonetheless, he stated that the United States was providing security assistance to the regional states to address transnational threats. (55) However, other U.S. officials and observers have raised concerns that if the Taliban gains more influence and power in Afghanistan post-2014, the allied IMU and IJU may well also establish a greater presence in the country, from which they could expand their activities in Central Asia. (56)
Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states have arrested many members of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT; Liberation Party, a politically oriented Islamic movement calling for the establishment of Sharia rule), sentencing them to lengthy prison terms or even death for pamphleteering, but HT reportedly continues to gain adherents. Uzbekistan argues that HT not only advocates terrorism and the killing of apostates but is carrying out such acts. (57) Kyrgyz authorities emphasize the anti-American and anti-Semitic nature of several HT statements and agree with the Uzbek government on designating the group as an illegal terrorist organization, but some prominent observers in Kyrgyzstan argue that the group is largely pacific and should not be harassed. (58)
Terrorism and Conflict in Kazakhstan (59)
Kazakhstan long maintained that there were few terrorists within the country, but this stance began to change in late 2003 with the establishment of an Anti-Terrorist Center as part of the National Security Committee. Shocking many Kazakhs, it reported the apprehension in late 2004 of over a dozen members of the IJU.
Several suicide bombings and other alleged terrorist attacks occurred in Kazakhstan in 2011. In addition, in late December 2011, energy sector workers on strike since May 2011 and others reportedly extensively damaged and burned government and other buildings and clashed with police in the town of Zhanaozen, in the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan, resulting in 16 deaths and dozens of injuries, the government reported. Some observers alleged that there were more casualties and that the riots were triggered or exacerbated by police firing on the demonstrators (video posted on the Internet appeared to back this claim). (60) Protests and violence also spread to other areas of the region.
At a meeting with policemen on July 12, 2012, President Nazarbayev criticized them for not taking preventive measures against terrorism, and stated that "over 100 crimes connected with terrorism were committed in Kazakhstan in 2011-12. As a result, dozens of [terrorists and policemen] have died.... And we have to admit the fact that radical and extremist groups are putting enormous pressure on the government and society" (for what seems a different accounting of terrorist incidents, see below). (61) According to a Kazakh Security Council official, over 300 individuals have been convicted in Kazakhstan on charges of terrorism from 2005 to 2012. (62)
In late July 2012, one policeman was killed and one wounded in Almaty, and the alleged assailants later engaged in a gun battle with security forces and most were killed. In mid-August 2012, a gun battle with alleged terrorists took place in Almaty, reportedly resulting in the deaths of several alleged terrorists and the capture of others. In early September 2012, a bomb-maker blew himself up in Atyrau Region, leading police to engage in a gun battle with other members of the alleged group, killing five of them.
In November 2012, Nazarbayev called for tightening legislation to facilitate government efforts to combat terrorism, with the government explaining that the changes in law were necessitated by increasing radicalization of the population and growing terrorist incidents in the country. The bill was passed and signed into law in early January 2013. The changes included an apparently expansive definition of terrorism to include an "ideology of violence" and acts or threats aimed at influencing the government, including violence and "frightening people." (63)
In February 2013, the Kazakh National Security Committee reported that law and security forces had prevented 35 violent extremist actions and neutralized 42 extremist groups in 2011-2012. However, it also reported that it had failed to avert 18 extremist actions, including 7 explosions.
In May 2013, six alleged terrorists were put on trial on charges of conspiring to commit robberies, to bomb civic sites and the National Security Committee building in Astana, and to assassinate senior officials. At the opening of the trial, the prosecutor alleged that they aimed to establish an Islamic caliphate in Kazakhstan.
In early October 2013, a State Program on Counteracting Religious Extremism and Terrorism for 2013-2017 was published, which some observers warn could further restrict the dissemination of religious literature and increase monitoring of religious groups, including through the installation of video surveillance cameras in places of worship and the monitoring of students studying religion abroad. (64) As part of stepped-up efforts, the Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Kazakhstan set up six regional groups of Imams to monitor religious expression and encourage individuals termed Salafis to return to traditional Islam under the umbrella of the Spiritual Board. (65)
In November 2013, an unnamed individual was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of setting up and leading a terrorist group that had carried out arson and bomb attacks. In January 2014, the Interior Minister reported that the activities of three terrorist groups had been halted and 24 of their members had been arrested in 2013. He and the Prosecutor-General reported that they had confiscated thousands of copies of extremist literature and closed down dozens of extremist websites. A Kazakh draft criminal code being finalized in early 2014 calls for increased jail sentences for terrorism. In February 2014, four Kazakhstanis were put on trial on charges of traveling to Syria for terrorist training to fight against the Syrian government.
Incursions and Violence in Kyrgyzstan (66)
Several hundred Islamic extremists and others harboring in Tajikistan and Afghanistan first invaded Kyrgyzstan in July-August 1999. Jama Namanganiy, the co-leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU; see below), headed the largest guerrilla group. They seized hostages and several villages, allegedly seeking to create an Islamic state in south Kyrgyzstan as a springboard for a jihad in Uzbekistan. (67) With Uzbek and Kazakh air and other support, Kyrgyz forces forced the guerrillas out in October 1999. Dozens of IMU and other insurgents again invaded Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in August 2000. Uzbekistan provided air and other support, but Kyrgyz forces were largely responsible for defeating the insurgents by late October 2000. The IMU did not invade the region in the summer before September 11, 2001, in part because Osama bin Laden had secured its aid for a Taliban offensive against the Afghan Northern Alliance.
About a dozen alleged IMU members invaded from Tajikistan in May 2006 but soon were defeated (some escaped). After this, the Kyrgyz defense minister claimed that the IMU, HT, and other such groups increasingly menaced national security.
The 2010 Ethnic Clashes in Kyrgyzstan
Deep-seated tensions between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan erupted on June 10-11, 2010. Grievances included perceptions among some ethnic Kyrgyz in the south that ethnic Uzbeks controlled commerce, discontent among some ethnic Uzbeks that they were excluded from the political process, and views among many Bakiyev supporters in the south that ethnic Uzbeks were supporting their opponents. The fighting over the next few days resulted in an official death toll of 426 (of which 276 were ethnic Uzbeks and 105 were ethnic Kyrgyz) and over 2,000 injuries. The violence also resulted in an initial wave of 400,000 refugees and IDPs and the destruction of thousands of homes and businesses in Osh and Jalal-abad.
Although critical of the Kyrgyz government, Uzbekistan did not intervene militarily or permit its citizens to enter Kyrgyzstan to join in the June fighting (according to some reports, the Uzbek government had considered military intervention). After some hesitation, the Uzbek government permitted 90,000 ethnic Uzbeks to settle in temporary camps in Uzbekistan. Virtually all had returned to Kyrgyzstan by the end of June. (68)
International donors meeting in Bishkek on July 27, 2010, pledged $1.1 billion in grants and loans to help Kyrgyzstan recover from the June violence. The United States pledged $48.6 million in addition to FY2010 and FY2011 planned aid. In addition, the United States provided $4.1 million in humanitarian assistance to Kyrgyzstan immediately after the April and June events. (69)
On January 10, 2011, a Kyrgyz commission issued its findings on the causes of the June 2010 violence in southern Kyrgyzstan between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. The report largely blamed ethnic Uzbek "extremists" and some supporters of former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev for fomenting the violence. The report also blamed interim government officials of ineptness in dealing with the escalating ethnic tensions. On May 2, 2011, an international commission formed under the leadership of Kimmo Kiljunen, the Special Representative for Central Asia of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, released its report of findings regarding the June 2010 violence. The commission concluded that the Kyrgyz provisional government failed to adequately provide security and leadership to stifle rising tensions and incidents in May or to minimize the effects of the June ethnic violence. The commission also raised concerns that security forces were directly or indirectly complicit in the violence (according to the commission, most police, military, and other security personnel are ethnic Kyrgyz). The commission called for the Kyrgyz government to condemn ultra-nationalism and proclaim that the state is multinational, promote gender equality, provide special rights for Uzbek language use in the south, train security forces to uphold human rights and not subvert state interests through parochial loyalties, impartially investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence, establish a truth and reconciliation commission, and provide reparations. (70) The Kyrgyz government has rejected the finding that security forces were complicit in the violence, continued to blame the former Bakiyev regime and Islamic extremists for fomenting the clashes, and stated that ethnic Uzbeks shared substantial blame for committing human rights abuses.
Attacks by Jama'at Kyrgyzstan Jaish al-Mahdi in 2010-2011
According to Kyrgyz security authorities, Jamaat Kyrgyzstan Jaish al-Mahdi (Kyrgyz Army of the Righteous Ruler), an ethnic Kyrgyz terrorist group, bombed a synagogue and sports facility and attempted to bomb a police station in late 2010, and killed three policemen in early 2011. The group also allegedly planned to attack the U.S. embassy and U.S. military Manas "transit center." Kyrgyz security forces reportedly killed or apprehended a dozen or more members of the group, including its leader, in January 2011. Ten alleged members of the group were put on trial in May 2011. At least some group members allegedly had received training by the Caucasus Emirate terrorist group in Russia, but also in late 2010 the group reportedly pledged solidarity with the Taliban.
Terrorism and Conflict in Tajikistan (71)
The 1992-1997 Civil War in Tajikistan
Tajikistan was among the Central Asian republics least prepared and inclined toward independence when the Soviet Union broke up. In September 1992, a loose coalition of nationalist, Islamic, and democratic parties and groups tried to take power. Kulyabi and Khojenti regional elites, assisted by Uzbekistan and Russia, launched a successful counteroffensive that by the end of 1992 had resulted in 20,000-40,000 casualties and up to 800,000 refugees or displaced persons, about 80,000 of whom fled to Afghanistan. After the two sides agreed to a cease-fire, the U.N. Security Council established a small U.N. Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) in December 1994. In June 1997, Tajik President Rahmon and the late rebel leader Seyed Abdullo Nuri signed a comprehensive peace agreement. Benchmarks of the peace process were largely met, and UNMOT pulled out in May 2000. To encourage the peace process, the United States initially pledged to help Tajikistan rebuild. Some observers point to events in the city of Andijon in Uzbekistan (see "The 2005 Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan" below) as indicating that conflicts similar to the Tajik Civil War could engulf other regional states where large numbers of people are disenfranchised and poverty-stricken.
The 2010-2011 Attacks in Tajikistan
In late August 2010, over two dozen individuals sentenced as terrorists escaped from prison in Dushanbe and launched attacks as they travelled to various regions of the country. Many of these individuals had been opposition fighters during the Tajik Civil War and had been arrested in eastern Tajikistan during government sweeps in 2009. In early September 2010, a suicide car bombing resulted in over two dozen deaths or injuries among police in the northern city of Khujand. An obscure terrorist group, Jamaat Ansarullah, allegedly the Tajik branch of the IMU, claimed responsibility. Some escapees and their allies, allegedly including IMU terrorists, attacked a military convoy in the Rasht Valley (formerly known as Karategin) east of Dushanbe on September 19, 2010, reportedly resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries to government forces. Heavy fighting in the Rasht Valley over the next month reportedly led to dozens of additional casualties among government forces.
In early January 2011, the Tajik Interior (police) Ministry reported that its forces had killed former Tajik opposition fighter Alovuddin Davlatov, alias Ali Bedaki, the alleged leader of one major insurgent group involved in the ambush in the Rasht Valley. Another leader of the ambush, Abdullo Rakhimov, aka Mullo Abdullo--a former Tajik opposition paramilitary leader who spurned the peace settlement and travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he allegedly maintained links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and who reentered Tajikistan in 2009--was reportedly killed by Tajik security forces on April 15, 2011. (72)
The 2012 Instability in Mountainous Badakhshan
On July 21, 2012, a national security official, General Abdullo Nazarov, was killed near the city of Khorog, the capital of the Mountainous Badakhshan Autonomous Region in eastern Tajikistan. According to some reports, the region is a major transit point for drugs and other goods trafficked from Afghanistan and for weapons and money smuggled to terrorist groups in Afghanistan. The government responded by launching security operations to force the local "criminal group" to surrender. The government asserted that the "criminals" were led by Tolib Ayembekov, a former UTO fighter who was the head of an Interior Ministry border guard troops unit in the Ishkohim District (Khorog is in this district), bordering Afghanistan. The government also alleged that the "criminals" had ties with organized crime groups throughout the world, and were linked to members of the IMU, who were infiltrating from Afghanistan to support the "criminals." (73) Ayembekov denied that he was responsible for Nazarov's death. Over 3,000 security personnel entered Khorog on July 24, and subsequent fighting resulted in 17 casualties among the security personnel and 30 among the alleged "criminals," according to the government. Forty-one surviving "criminals" were arrested. Although the government officially acknowledged only one civilian casualty, some observers reported that dozens of civilians had been killed or injured. Among the forces deployed to the region were extra border guards who sealed the Tajik-Afghan border to prevent the Tajik "criminals" from escaping across the border or receiving assistance from groups in Afghanistan. Some information about the fighting leaked out of the region despite the "accidental" severing of Internet and cell phone connections to the region. The government declared a unilateral ceasefire the next day. On July 26, 2012, the U.S. Embassy raised concerns about reports of civilian casualties and urged the government not to suppress media reporting in the region. In early August 2012, Ayembekov pledged fealty to the Rahmon government and readiness to prove his innocence in a court of law.
The ceasefire was broken by the government early on August 22, when unidentified assailants attacked the home of a popular former UTO fighter, the invalid Imomnazar Imomnazarov, and killed him. His death led some protesters to attack the administration building in Khorog a few hours later, and police allegedly fired at them, injuring three. A large memorial service for Imomnazarov was held the next day in Khorog. A ceasefire agreement was reached between the government and local officials and prominent citizens later that evening. In accordance with the agreement, some security personnel subsequently were withdrawn from the city, but many have stayed in the region to prepare for a visit by Rahmon in late September 2012.
Some observers have questioned the Tajik government's official explanations of events in Khorog. One local commentator has argued that General Nazarov was acting at the behest of a group in the Tajik security service to seize control over lucrative smuggling operations or otherwise was involved in extorting money. (74) A think tank in Dushanbe asserted that the Tajik government deployed security forces in the region after Ayembekov threatened to enlist up to 1,000 terrorists massed across the border in Afghanistan to help him if the government moved to arrest him. (75) Several accounts have suggested by many residents of Khorog had taken up arms on July 24 in opposition against the deployment of security forces. Accusations that Ayembekov was a "criminal" must be squared with the fact that Khorog is the location of the regional Border Guard Training Center, where the International Organization for Migration has used State Department funding to carry out training for Tajik and Afghan border guards, including on-site at regional border posts. Seeming to refer to this situation, then-Assistant Secretary Blake in August 2012 stated that the United States supports Tajik government efforts in the region "to address some of the corrupt activities of their own border guards and others who are helping to facilitate some of this [narcotics] trade." (76)
Other observers have speculated that at least part of the reason for the government actions in Mountainous Badakhshan may have been to secure the loyalty of regional officials in the run-up to presidential elections held in early November 2013. During the deployment of security forces to the region, the regional IRP head was detained and later found dead, a regional IRP office was sacked, and another IRP official was detained and transferred to Dushanbe. Before he was killed, Imomnazarov speculated that Nazarov had falsely reported to his superiors that the UTO fighters were planning to launch a coup against Rahmon, and that this was the main cause of the government security actions.
Terrorism and Conflict in Uzbekistan (77)
Officials in Uzbekistan believe that the country is increasingly vulnerable to Islamic extremism, and they have been at the forefront in Central Asia in combating this threat. Reportedly, thousands of alleged Islamic extremists have been imprisoned and many mosques have been closed. A series of explosions in Tashkent in February 1999 were among early signs that the Uzbek government was vulnerable to terrorism. By various reports, the explosions killed 16 to 28 and wounded 100 to 351 people. The aftermath involved wide-scale arrests of political dissidents and others deemed by some observers as unlikely conspirators. Karimov in April 1999 accused Mohammad Solikh (former Uzbek presidential candidate and head of the banned Erk Party) of masterminding what he termed an assassination plot, along with Tohir Yuldashev (co-leader of the IMU) and the Taliban. In 2000, Yuldashev and Namanganiy received death sentences in absentia, and Solikh received a 15.5 year prison sentence. Solikh denied membership in IMU, and he and Yuldashev denied involvement in the bombings.
On March 28 through April 1, 2004, a series of suicide bombings and other attacks were launched in Uzbekistan, reportedly killing 47. An obscure Islamic Jihad Group of Uzbekistan (IJG; Jama'at al-Jihad al-Islami, a breakaway part of the IMU) claimed responsibility. (78) In subsequent trials, the alleged attackers were accused of being members of IJG or of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT; an Islamic fundamentalist movement ostensibly pledged to peace but banned in Uzbekistan) and of attempting to overthrow the government. Some defendants testified that they were trained by Arabs and others at camps in Kazakhstan and Pakistan. They testified that Najmiddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov (convicted in absentia in 2000) was the leader of IJG, and linked him to Taliban head Mohammad Omar, Uighur extremist Abu Mohammad, and Osama bin Laden. On July 30, 2004, explosions occurred at the U.S. and Israeli embassies and the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office in Tashkent. The IMU and IJG claimed responsibility and stated that the suicide bombings were aimed against Uzbek and other "apostate" governments. (79)
The 2005 Violence in Andijon, Uzbekistan
Dozens or perhaps hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded on May 13, 2005, after Uzbek troops fired on demonstrators in the eastern town of Andijon. The protestors had gathered to demand the end of a trial of local businessmen charged with belonging to an Islamic terrorist group. The night before, a group stormed a prison where those on trial were held and released hundreds of inmates. Many freed inmates then joined others in storming government buildings. (80) President Karimov flew to the city to direct operations, and reportedly had restored order by late on May 13. (81) On July 29, 439 people who had fled from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan were airlifted to Romania for resettlement processing, after the United States and others raised concerns that they might be tortured if returned to Uzbekistan. (82)
The United States and others in the international community repeatedly called for an international inquiry into events in Andijon, which the Uzbek government rejected as violating its sovereignty. In November 2005, the EU Council approved a visa ban on 12 Uzbek officials it stated were "directly responsible for the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in Andijon and for the obstruction of an independent inquiry." The Council also embargoed exports of "arms, military equipment, and other equipment that might be used for internal repression." (83) In October 2007 and April 2008, the EU Council suspended the visa ban for six months but left the arms embargo in place. In October 2008, the EU Council praised what it viewed as some positive trends in human rights in Uzbekistan and lifted the visa ban, although it left the arms embargo in place. (84) In October 2009, it lifted the arms embargo.
At the first major trial of 15 alleged perpetrators of the Andijon unrest in late 2005, the accused all confessed and asked for death penalties. They testified that they were members of Akramiya, a branch of HT launched in 1994 by Akram Yuldashev that allegedly aimed to use force to create a caliphate in the area of the Fergana Valley located in Uzbekistan. Besides receiving assistance from HT, Akramiya was alleged to receive financial aid and arms training from the IMU. The defendants also claimed that the U.S. and Kyrgyz governments helped finance and support their effort to overthrow the government, and that international media colluded with local human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in this effort. The U.S. and Kyrgyz governments denied involvement, and many observers criticized the trial as appearing stage-managed. Partly in response to events at Andijon, the U.S. Congress tightened conditions on aid to Uzbekistan.
The Summer 2009 Suicide Bombings and Attacks in Uzbekistan
On May 25-26, 2009, a police checkpoint was attacked on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, attacks took place in the border town of Khanabad, and four bombings occurred in Andijon in the commercial district, including at least one by suicide bombers. Several deaths and injuries were alleged, although reporting was suppressed. Uzbek officials blamed the IMU, although the IJU allegedly claimed responsibility. President Karimov flew to Andijon on May 31. In late August 2009, shooting took place in Tashkent that resulted in the deaths of three alleged IMU members and the apprehension of other group members. The Uzbek government alleged that the group had been involved in the 1999 explosions and in recent assassinations in Tashkent.
U.S. Designation of the IMU and IJU as Terrorist Organizations
In September 2000, the State Department designated the IMU as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, stating that the IMU, aided by Afghanistan's Taliban and by Al Qaeda, resorted to terrorism, actively threatened U.S. interests, and attacked American citizens. At that time, the State Department argued that the "main goal of the IMU is to topple the current government in Uzbekistan," and it linked the IMU to bombings and attacks on Uzbekistan in 1999-2000.
Former CIA Director Porter Goss testified in March 2005 that the IJG/IJU "has become a more virulent threat to U.S. interests and local governments." (85) In May 2005, the State Department designated the IJG/IJU as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and in June, the U.N. Security Council added the IJG/IJU to its terrorism list. (86) In June 2008, IJG head Jalolov and his associate Suhayl Fatilloevich Buranov were added to the U.N. 1267 Sanctions Committee's Consolidated List of individuals and entities associated with bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Also, the U.S. Treasury Department ordered that any of their assets under U.S. jurisdiction be frozen and prohibited U.S. citizens from financial dealings with the terrorists. (87)
After U.S. military operations began in Afghanistan in late 2001, IMU forces assisting the Taliban and Al Qaeda suffered major losses, and IMU co-head Namanganiy was killed. (88) Surviving IMU forces moved to Pakistan, and became heavily involved in actions against the Pakistani government, although some IMU fighters later resumed attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan. (89)
IMU head Yuldashev reportedly was killed in late August 2009 in Pakistan by a U.S. drone missile, and Jalalov allegedly similarly was killed in late September 2009. After Yuldashev's death, Abu Usman Adil became the head of the IMU. The IMU military commander, Abbas Mansur, allegedly was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011. In April 2012, Adil reportedly was similarly killed, and was succeeded by Usman Ghazi some months later. Ghazi, a non-Uzbek, has focused the IMU on attacking Afghanistani and Pakistani government targets, possibly lessening its immediate threat to Central Asia, according to some observers. (90) However, as mentioned above, U.S. officials and others have raised concerns that the IMU and other terrorist groups may re-focus on Central Asia after the U.S. and NATO drawdown in Afghanistan in 2014.
In July 2011, an Uzbek citizen on an expired student visa was arrested on charges of being directed by IMU terrorists to assassinate President Obama. He confessed and was sentenced in 2012. Two other ethnic Uzbeks were arrested in the United States in early 2012 on charges of collaborating with the IJU. One of the Uzbeks had been granted refugee status after he fled the Uzbek government crackdown in Andijon in 2005. He was arrested at a U.S. airport while allegedly planning to join IJU terrorists abroad.
Democratization and Human Rights
A major goal of U.S. policy in Central Asia has been to foster the long-term development of democratic institutions and respect for human rights. Particularly since September 11, 2001, the United States has attempted to harmonize its concerns about democratization and human rights in the region with its interests in regional support for counter-terrorism. According to some allegations, the former Bush Administration may have sent suspected terrorists in its custody to Uzbekistan for questioning, a process termed "extraordinary rendition." (91) Although not verifying such transfers specifically to Uzbekistan, the former Bush Administration stated that it received diplomatic assurances that transferees would not be tortured. Several citizens of Central Asian states who were held in U.S. custody at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base have been returned to their home countries. (92)
All of the Central Asian leaders have declared that they are committed to democratization. During Nazarbayev's 1994 U.S. visit, he and then-President Clinton signed a Charter on Democratic Partnership that recognized Kazakhstan's commitments to the rule of law, respect for human rights, and economic reform. During his December 2001 and September 2006 visits, Nazarbayev repeated these pledges in joint statements with then-President Bush. In March 2002, a U.S.-Uzbek Strategic Partnership Declaration was signed pledging Uzbekistan to "intensify the democratic transformation" and improve freedom of the press. During his December 2002 U.S. visit, Tajikistan's President Rahmon pledged to "expand fundamental freedoms and human rights."
Despite such democratization pledges, the states have made little progress, according to the State Department. In testimony in May 2011, then-Assistant Secretary Blake stated that leaders in Central Asia "are suspicious of democratic reforms, and with some exceptions have maintained tight restrictions on political, social, religious, and economic life in their countries.... Kyrgyzstan has been the primary exception in Central Asia. The democratic gains recently made in Kyrgyzstan ... are cause for optimism." (93)
During the 1990s and early 2000s, almost all the leaders in Central Asia held onto power by orchestrating extensions of their terms, holding suspect elections, eliminating possible contenders, and providing emoluments to supporters and relatives (the exception was the leader of Tajikistan, who had been ousted in the early 1990s during a civil war). After this long period of leadership stability, President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan was toppled in a coup in 2005, and President Niyazov of Turkmenistan died in late 2006, marking the passing of three out of five
Soviet-era regional leaders from the scene. Soviet-era leaders Nazarbayev and Karimov remain in power, and Tajikistan has been headed since the civil war by Rahmon, the Soviet-era head of a state farm.
Possible scenarios of political futures in Central Asia have ranged from continued rule in most of the states by elite groups that became ensconced during the Soviet era to violent transitions to Islamic fundamentalist rule. Peaceful transitions to more or less democratic political systems have not occurred and appear unlikely for some time to come (although the peaceful October 2011 Kyrgyz presidential election may offer some hope; see below). While some observers warn that Islamic extremism could increase dramatically in the region, others discount the risk that the existing secular governments soon could be overthrown by Islamic extremists. (94)
In the case of the three succession transitions so far, Tajikistan's resulted in a shift in the Sovietera regional/clan elite configuration and some limited inclusion of the Islamic Renaissance Party. Perhaps worrisome, Tajik President Rahmon has written a "spiritual guide" reminiscent of the one penned by Turkmenistan's late authoritarian president Niyazov, and has given orders on how citizens should live and dress. In Turkmenistan, it appears that Soviet-era elites have retained power following Niyazov's death and have eschewed meaningful democratization. Kyrgyzstan's transition after Akayev's 2005 ouster appeared to involve the gradual increase in influence of southern regional/clan ethnic Kyrgyz elites linked to Bakiyev until April 2010, when northern regional/clan ethnic Kyrgyz elites reasserted influence by ousting then-President Bakiyev. An interim president held office until an election was held on October 30, 2011, the first contested electoral transfer of power in Central Asia. This election was won by Almazbek Atambayev, who represents northern interests (see below). (95)
Recent Political Developments in Kazakhstan (96)
In November 2012, an appeals court upheld the 7.5 year prison sentence handed down in October to the head of the unregistered Alga opposition party, Vladimir Kozlov, convicted on charges that he organized the Zhanaozen riots as part of a coup attempt against Nazarbayev. The U.S. Ambassador to the Permanent Council of the OSCE, Ian Kelly, raised concerns that the case was used to silence a leading oppositionist and stated that the irregularities of the trial "casts serious doubts on [Kazakhstan's] respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law." He also correctly predicted that the charge of "inciting social hatred" against Kozlov could be used to prosecute other oppositionists, civil society organizations, and members of the media. (97) On December 21, 2012, the Alga Party was banned as an extremist organization by the Almaty district court, silencing what one observer has characterized as the main opposition party in the country. (98) Kozlov remains imprisoned.
In November 2012, the Kazakh General Prosecutor's Office recommended the closure of most opposition media on the grounds that they contained calls for the violent overthrow of the government and otherwise undermined national security. Courts quickly ruled that these media were "extremist," reportedly without substantial evidence, and ordered their closure. Reporters Without Borders has set up some Internet sites for several of the banned media. (99)
A new holiday was celebrated on December 1, 2012, entitled "Day of the First President," to celebrate President Nazarbayev's rule. Some commentators in Kazakhstan speculated that this holiday was established to further consolidate presidential power and quell dissenting views. (100)
In April 2013, the European Parliament approved a resolution decrying the deterioration of human rights in Kazakhstan since the Zhanaozen disturbance. The resolution "strongly criticized" court decisions to ban the Alga Party and independent media, urged the release of political prisoners, and called for easing restrictions on the registration and practice of religion.
In October 2013, President Nazarbayev issued a statement that he intends to stay in office, and plans to run in the 2016 presidential election.
According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, an NGO, independent media have faced increasing restrictions on their operations, including fines and orders to temporarily suspend publication. One newspaper that had just published its first issue allegedly was fined for not appearing regularly. Some cases involve suspension of publication for not printing as many copies as set forth in the registration documents or for altering their publishing schedule. Some observers claim that the restrictions are politically motivated, including because the publications had carried articles critical of the government or presenting viewpoints not favored by the government. (101)
Recent Political Developments in Kyrgyzstan (102)
On October 3, 2012, the leader of the Ata-Jurt Party and former presidential candidate Kamchybek Tashiyev, along with fellow party members and legislators Sadyr Japarov and Talant Mamytov, addressed a group of about 800 protesters outside the legislative building in Bishkek. According to some accounts, they allegedly urged the demonstrators to storm the legislature to demand that it nationalize the Kumtor gold mine run by Canada's Centerra Gold firm. If the legislature did not act, they reportedly warned, its members would be forcibly dispersed. (103) After initially breaking into the legislative building, the protesters were repulsed by police, who later foiled another attempt. The government arrested the three legislators on the grounds that they were publically advocating and using force to attempt to overthrow the constitutional system. (104) The arrests triggered additional protests in southern Kyrgyzstan, the power base of the Ata-Jurt Party. In March 2013, a Bishkek district court sentenced the three legislators to prison terms ranging from one year to 18 months. According to many observers, violent popular reactions to the sentences--including the seizure of a regional administration building and a blockage of the main highway from Osh to Bishkek in early June--may have influenced an appeals court decision in June 2013 to acquit and release the three legislators. Perhaps also relevant, courtroom bystanders physically attacked the appellate judges, demanding acquittals. The prosecutor appealed the acquittals. In early August 2013, the Supreme Court re-instated the sentences, but ruled that the defendants had served their time and would not be imprisoned. The opposition deputies were stripped of their legislative mandates, however.
In early October 2013, a rally by local villagers calling for the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine turned violent, reportedly after policemen tried to disperse the demonstrators, resulting in injuries to six policemen and the detention of over 20 demonstrators. The local villagers launched another protest and road blockage at the mine in February 2014. In late February 2014, four of eight defendants in the October 2013 incident received sentences of 4-8 years (the rest received suspended sentences).
In December 2013, Centerra and the Kyrgyz government signed a memorandum on of understanding (MOU) on setting up a new joint venture with both sides owning 50% of shares. Centerra also offered other concessions. The legislature approved the MOU on February 6, 2014. The Kyrgyz government has voiced the hope that the two sides will reach final agreement on the ownership shares and other details of the joint venture by August 2014.
Opponents of the MOU have called for the government to own over two-thirds of the shares or for the mine to be nationalized. Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of the Ata-Meken Party, a member party of the ruling coalition, has been prominent in calling for nationalizing the mine. On March 18, 2014, the Ata Meken Party withdrew from the ruling coalition. A new coalition must be formed and a new cabinet of ministers approved. Tekebaev stated that the party had objected to the government's agreement on Kumtor mine operations, socioeconomic conditions, and alleged embezzlement during urban renewal efforts led by Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev in Osh and Jalal-abad.
President Atambayev has pointed to his pledge to serve only one term as president as a sign of his honesty and adherence to the division of executive and legislative power established by the 2010 constitution.
According to analyst Johan Engvall, Kyrgyzstan's new semi-parliamentary system, established in 2010, has contributed to the replacement of the one-family rule of former President Bakiyev with a "system of coalition-based corruption, where the country's major economic, political, and territorial assets are divided among political parties with a detrimental impact on their ability to govern the country." He states that the legislative parties making up the ruling coalition have parceled out responsibility over ministries and regional administrations, and even over some businesses, so that various sectors of business and administration and regions of the country are controlled by one or another party. He also warns that this system may be in flux, as President Atambayev has attempted to gain greater authority. Engvall argues that "the new system has yet to produce the desired effect in terms of relieving the strained relations between center and periphery, or urban and rural areas, nor has it been able to moderate intra-elite relations." (105)
Recent Political Developments in Tajikistan (106)
In March 2013, oppositionist and businessman Zayd Saidov announced his intention to form the New Tajikistan Party to participate in planned 2015 legislative elections. He was arrested in May on charges of economic crimes and in late December 2013 was sentenced to 26 years in prison with confiscation of property. In early March, authorities arrested Saidov's defense lawyer on fraud charges. Many observers view Saidov's conviction and his lawyer's arrest as politically motivated.
A presidential election was held on November 6, 2013. The regime argued that since the constitution was changed in 2003, including by extending the presidential term from five to seven years, Rahmon's constitutionally mandated two-term limit was reset, and he could run for a third term in 2006 and a fourth term in 2013. Seven prospective candidates were put forward by their parties. Five of the parties held legislative seats and two were outside the legislature. The prospects were required to gather at least 210,000 signatures (said to represent 5% of registered voters) in order to be registered as candidates. The difficulty of gathering the signatures led three prospective candidates to request an extension to the 20-day limit for obtaining signatures, and the Central Commission for Elections (CCE) granted a few days extension. Six candidates successfully registered. However, human rights activist Oynihol Bobonazarova--nominated by the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and supported by the opposition Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) and some other groups making up the Union of Reformist Forces of Tajikistan--proved unable to obtain the required 210,000 signatures. She alleged that local authorities had hindered her gathering of signatures.
Many observers viewed the candidates running against Rahmon as pro-government, even Communist Party candidate Ismoil Talbakov, who had run against Rahmon in 2006. Other candidates who had run against Rahmon in 2006 included Abduhalim Ghafforov of the Socialist Party and Olimjon Boboyev of the Party of Economic Reforms. After Bobonazarova failed to be registered as a candidate, the SDPT called for boycotting the election. IRPT leaders stated that they would not vote, but did not call for boycotting the election. During his campaign, Talbakov called for Tajikistan's integration with Russia, lauded Lenin and Stalin, urged abolition of fulltime clergy, pointed out that the president had given him an award for his support during the civil war, and stated that if elected, he would rule as a Soviet-style dictator who would widely use the death penalty against rapists and drug traffickers and deport homosexual "non-humans."
The CCE reported that 90.1% of 4.2 million registered voters turned out and that Rahmon won 84.23% of the vote, followed by Talbakov with 4.93%. Some election observers and media questioned the high turnout figure, given the number of labor migrants outside the country. Media reported that at least some voters were able to cast ballots for relatives who were working abroad on election day. The SDPT and IRPT maintained that the results were fraudulent and that Rahmon's win was illegitimate.
According to monitors from the OSCE and the European Parliament, the election was peaceful but the candidate registration process, campaign environment, and vote counting were significantly flawed and fell short of genuine pluralism. The OSCE criticized the electoral law for unduly restrictive conditions on candidacy and campaigning that were not conducive to democratic elections, including requirements that effectively barred labor migrants from signing in support of a candidate, an unreasonable number of required signatures, and restrictions on campaign activities that limited freedom of expression. The monitors received numerous credible allegations that local officials were unwilling, unavailable, or otherwise lax in carrying out their required duty to certify signatures. While the IRPT alleged that it was blocked in its efforts to gather the required number of signatures, or that individuals feared repercussions from the government if they signed in support of Bobonazarova, some officials of the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan admitted that they assisted some other parties in gathering signatures.
The monitors judged that campaigning was formalistic and devoid of the diversity of views that would provide voters with an informed choice. They stated that President Rahmon enjoyed a significant advantage from state media coverage of his official activities, which included visits to several localities around the country. Monitors also observed local officials campaigning for the president. Campaign debates usually were held in a pro forma style moderated by election officials and campaign posters adhered to a standard format. President Rahmon declined debating his opponents, and most of the candidates steered clear of criticism of the president or government. The monitors witnessed significant problems on election day, including lax control over unused ballots and ballot boxes, widespread proxy voting, multiple voting, and ballot box stuffing. Vote counting was assessed as seriously problematic in over one-third of 61 polling stations observed, including inconsistent counting procedures, lack of visibility of vote-counting, and errors in filling out results protocols. Vote tabulation was assessed negatively in nearly one-fifth of 48 district election commissions observed, including the correction or filling in of protocols from the polling stations. (107)
Recent Political Developments in Turkmenistan (108)
In October 2011, the Turkmen Central Electoral Commission (CEC) announced that a presidential election would be held on February 12, 2012. During the last two weeks of December 2011, initiative groups nominated candidates for president and gathered 10,000 signatures in a majority of the country's districts in order to gain registration of their candidates. The National Revival Movement, a civic association headed by the president, nominated President Berdimuhamedow as its candidate. In January 2012, the CEC registered eight candidates. All of Berdimuhamedow's challengers were ministerial officials or state plant managers. Based on an inadequate legal and political framework to ensure a pluralistic election, the OSCE decided not to formally monitor the election. The CEC announced that Berdimuhamedow won over 97% of the vote and that turnout was over 96%.
In January 2012, the legislature approved a Law on Political Parties that set forth procedures for establishing new political parties. In May 2012, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, a public association, announced that it intended to form a party, and it held a founding congress in August 2012 to form the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (PIE). The platform of the new party is virtually the same as that of the DPT and is regarded as a pro-government party by most observers. In a by-election to fill vacant legislative seats in June 2013, the head of the new party, Ovezmammed Mammedov, became the first member of a party other than the DPT to be elected to the legislature.
Legislative elections were held on December 15, 2013. Candidates were nominated by the DPT and PIE, public associations, and citizen groups. All 283 candidates nominated by parties, associations, and groups were registered, including 66 women. DPT nominated 99 candidates, and PIE nominated 21 candidates. Among the public associations, the Trade Unions nominated 89 candidates, the Union of Women nominated 37 candidates and the Youth Union nominated 22 candidates. (109) Fifteen candidates also were nominated by groups of citizens. The majority of constituencies had 2 candidates, 31 constituencies had 3 candidates, and 2 constituencies had 4 candidates.
A fifteen-member OSCE Election Assessment Mission observed the election, along with a twelve-member team from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. According to the final assessment of the OSCE, the election took place in a strictly controlled political environment characterized by a lack of respect for fundamental freedoms that are central to democratic elections. Although there was a second political party participating in the race, it did not provide voters with a genuine choice. The election needed to be significantly improved to live up to OSCE commitments and other international obligations for genuine and democratic elections. Among problems identified by the OSCE, members of electoral commissions were appointees of the government. The Central Electoral Commission did not convene regular meetings and key electoral information was not published and disseminated. Registered candidates proclaimed their support for presidential policies rather than offering different political platforms. Campaigning was minimal, and election and local government officials were prominent among the audiences as candidate campaign meetings. Media was strictly controlled by the government, restricting any possible dissemination of diverse viewpoints.
In almost all polling stations visited, the OSCE observed several instances of voters presenting multiple identification documents, presumably for other family members, and getting multiple ballots in return. The mission observed numerous instances of seemingly identical signatures on the voter lists in the polling stations visited, which could be indications of proxy voting or multiple voting. OSCE monitors also noticed several instances of clumps of ballot papers in ballot boxes, suggesting multiple voting or ballot box stuffing. These irregularities may cast doubt on the level of turnout reported. The vote tabulation process was not transparent, with protocols not being publicly displayed and final results not broken down by the number of voters, turnout, votes for each candidate, and invalid votes for each precinct. (110)
Recent Political Developments in Uzbekistan (111)
In December 2012, President Karimov stressed that the country was following a path of "evolutionary" democratization, including by increasing the checks and balances among the three branches of power and strengthening political parties. At the same time, he stated that the government's power would continue to increase in the "transitional period" in order for it to direct the reforms, and cautioned that the process of democratization was lengthy and never-ending.
In late 2013, President Karimov's elder daughter, Gulnara, became more involved in political scandal, particularly involving criminal investigations by authorities in Switzerland, Sweden, France, and Gibraltar of her business dealing. She and other observers have viewed such events as the closure of her media outlets as efforts to eliminate her as a possible political successor. According to some accounts, President Karimov had ordered the closure of her media outlets. Oxford Analytica has pointed out that President Karimov is the oldest political leader in Central Asia (born in 1938) and long has been rumored to be in ill-health. It suggests that a political succession might follow a similar course to that in Turkmenistan after the death of President Niyazov, where constitutional provisions on succession were ignored and the elite clans settled on a successor. According to Oxford Analytica, current Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his deputy Rustam Azimov are likely successors, but it also states that that National Security Service head Rustam Inoyatov might play a "decisive role." (112)
In December 2013, President Karimov proposed changing the constitution to give the legislature more power and to pass laws facilitating multi-party competition in order to "build a democratic state." He also called for studying the United States in order to improve the judicial system and foster independent media. (113) Legislative elections are planned for December 2014.
The State Department's latest Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 characterized all the Central Asian governments except Kyrgyzstan as authoritarian and as falling short in respect for human rights in many areas:
* In Kazakhstan, the president and his Nur Otan Party dominated the political system. Significant human rights problems included severe limits on citizens' rights to change their government and restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and association. There was lack of due process in dealing with abuses by law enforcement and judicial officials. Other reported abuses included: arbitrary or unlawful killings; detainee and prisoner torture and other abuse; arbitrary arrest and detention; prohibitive political party registration requirements; restrictions on the activities of NGOs; sex and labor trafficking; and child labor. Corruption was widespread, although he government took modest steps to prosecute some officials who committed abuses.
* In Kyrgyzstan, the constitution established a parliamentary form of government intended to limit presidential power and enhance the role of parliament and the prime minister. Some security forces appeared at times to operate independently of civilian control in the South and committed human rights abuses. Significant human rights problems included abuses related to continued ethnic tensions in the South; denial of due process and lack of accountability in judicial and law enforcement proceedings; law enforcement officials' use of arbitrary arrest; and various forms of mistreatment, torture, and extortion against all demographic groups, particularly against ethnic Uzbeks. The following additional human rights problems existed: harassment of NGOs, activists, and journalists; pressure on independent media; restrictions on religious freedom; pervasive corruption; discrimination and violence against ethnic and religious minorities; child abuse; trafficking in persons; and child labor. The central government allowed security forces to act arbitrarily, emboldening law enforcement officials to prey on vulnerable citizens, and allowing mobs to disrupt trials by attacking defendants, attorneys, witnesses, and judges.
* In Tajikistan, an authoritarian president and his supporters, drawn mainly from one region of the country, dominated the political system. The government obstructed political pluralism. Security forces reported to civilian authorities. Significant human rights problems included torture and abuse of detainees and other persons by security forces; repression of political activism and the repeated blockage of several independent news and social networking websites; and poor religious freedom conditions. Other human rights problems included arbitrary arrest; denial of the right to a fair trial; corruption; and trafficking in persons, including sex and labor trafficking. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were very few prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses.
* In Turkmenistan, an authoritarian president and his Democratic Party controlled the government. Significant human rights problems included arbitrary arrest; torture; and disregard for civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement. Other continuing human rights problems included citizens' inability to change their government; interference in the practice of religion; denial of due process and fair trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; and trafficking in persons. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were no reported prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses.
* In Uzbekistan, the authoritarian president dominated political life and exercised nearly complete control over the other branches of government. Significant human rights problems included torture and abuse of detainees by security forces; denial of due process and fair trial; and widespread restrictions on religious freedom, including harassment of religious minority group members and continued imprisonment of believers of all faiths. Other continuing human rights problems included: incommunicado and prolonged detention; arbitrary arrest and detention; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; governmental restrictions on civil society activity; restrictions on freedom of movement; and government-organized forced labor. Authorities subjected human rights activists, journalists, and others who criticized the government, as well as their family members, to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and politically motivated prosecution and detention. Government officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. (114)
In June 2013, the State Department reported that Uzbekistan was a source country for human trafficking for forced labor and sex, and that while the government greatly reduced the number of children under 15 years of age involved in the 2012 cotton harvest, the government continued to subject older children and adults to forced labor in the harvest. Also, Uzbekistan did not demonstratively investigate or prosecute government officials suspected to be complicit in forced labor. The State Department estimated that there were over 1 million individuals subject to state-imposed internal forced labor in Uzbekistan. Since designations began in 2003, Uzbekistan has ranked as a Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3 country (a Tier 2 country does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to comply; a Watch List country does not fully comply, the number of victims may be increasing, and efforts to comply are slipping; a Tier 3 country does not fully comply and is not making significant efforts to do so). In the 2003, 2006, and 2007 reports, Uzbekistan was listed as a Tier 3 country, but in the 2008-2012 reports, Uzbekistan was on the Tier 2 Watch List. In the 2011-2012 reports, Uzbekistan was granted waivers from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because the government had written plans to comply, according to the State Department. However, the government plans were not realized, and since Uzbekistan had exhausted its maximum of two consecutive waivers, it was placed on Tier 3 in the 2013 report. Countries placed on Tier 3 are subject to certain sanctions, including the withholding of non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance. However, Uzbekistan has received partial or full waivers, most recently in September 2013, when the president determined that a waiver would promote further efforts to combat trafficking and would safeguard unspecified U.S. national security interests. (115)
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor listed all the Central Asian states as countries that use child labor to pick cotton. This list was meant to inform the choices made by the buying public. In addition, on July 23, 2013, cotton from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan again was included on a list that requires U.S. government contractors to certify that they have made a good faith effort to determine whether forced or indentured child labor was used to produce the cotton. (116)
In testimony to Congress in April 2013, an official of the U.S. International Labor Rights Forum (IRLF), an NGO, reported that as a member of the Cotton Campaign, an international coalition of NGOs, industries, and trade unions, the IRLF had supported diplomatic and economic pressure on Uzbekistan to end forced child and adult labor in cotton production. He reported that forced child and adult labor continued to be used in the autumn 2012 cotton harvest, and that security personnel were deployed on the farms to enforce production quotas and to prevent pickers from taking pictures or otherwise documenting the use of forced labor. Ostensibly, the pickers were "volunteers" recruited from government agencies, private firms, colleges, and high schools, the latter including a majority of all faculty members. Children under age 15 were officially excused from the harvest, although many aged 11-15 were observed in the fields. Individuals could pay a fee in lieu of participating in the harvest, but most reportedly were afraid of repercussions such as dismissal from a job or university if they did not participate, according to the ILRF official. He also reported that the use of forced labor throughout the economy was increasing. The IRLF has called for the U.S. Customs Service to enforce the Tariff Act of 1930 to block the importation of Uzbek cotton materials produced by forced labor. (117)
Uzbekistan long barred monitors from the U.N.'s International Labor Organization from observing the cotton harvest, but permitted them to monitor the Fall 2013 harvest under escort by Uzbek officials. A delegation reported systematic state mobilization of the forced labor of children in the 2013 cotton harvest. (118) The Cotton Campaign, a group of human rights organizations, also reported that the government had continued a practice implemented last year of not pressing most young children into picking cotton, but of stepping-up the use of forced labor by older youth and adults, including civil servants. (119)
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|Publication:||Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2014|
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