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Profile: Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan was a participant or observer in the following events:

Uzbekistan signs a deal with Enron “that could lead to joint development of the Central Asian nation’s potentially rich natural gas fields.” (Woodyard 6/25/1996) The $1.3 billion venture teams Enron with the state companies of Russia and Uzbekistan. (Houston Chronicle 6/30/1996) On July 8, 1996, the US government agrees to give $400 million to help Enron and an Uzbek state company develop these natural gas fields. (Oil & Gas Journal 7/8/1996)

Beginning in 1998, if not before, Uzbekistan and the CIA secretly create a joint counterterrorist strike force, funded and trained by the CIA. This force conducts joint covert operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. (Times of India 10/14/2001; Ricks and Glasser 10/14/2001; Zeman et al. 11/2004) In February 1999, radical Muslims fail in an attempt to assassinate Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, leading to a crackdown on Uzbek militants. CIA counterterrorism head Cofer Black and bin Laden unit chief Richard Blee see this as an opportunity to increase co-operation with Uzbekistan, and fly to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to seal an agreement with Karimov. One hope is that a strike force will be established to snatch Osama bin Laden or one of his lieutenants. Karimov also allows CIA transit and helicopter operations at Uzbek air bases, as well as the installation of CIA and NSA monitoring equipment to intercept Taliban and al-Qaeda communications. The CIA is pleased with the new allies, thinking them better than Pakistan’s ISI, but at the White House some National Security Council members are skeptical. One will comment, “Uzbek motivations were highly suspect to say the least.” There are also worries about Uzbek corruption, human rights abuses, and scandal. (Coll 2004, pp. 456-460)

Enron’s agreement from 1996 (see June 24, 1996) to develop natural gas with Uzbekistan is not renewed. Enron closes its office there. The reason for the “failure of Enron’s flagship project” is an inability to get the natural gas out of the region. Uzbekistan’s production is “well below capacity” and only 10 percent of its production is being exported, all to other countries in the region. The hope was to use a pipeline through Afghanistan, but “Uzbekistan is extremely concerned at the growing strength of the Taliban and its potential impact on stability in Uzbekistan, making any future cooperation on a pipeline project which benefits the Taliban unlikely.” A $12 billion pipeline through China is being considered as one solution, but that wouldn’t be completed until the end of the next decade at the earliest. (Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections 10/12/1998)

By the start of this year, the US has already begun “to quietly build influence” in Central Asia. The US has established significant military-to-military relationships with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Americans have trained soldiers from those countries. The militaries of all three have an ongoing relationship with the National Guard of a US state—Kazakhstan with Arizona, Kyrgyzstan with Montana, and Uzbekistan with Louisiana. The countries also participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. (Kaiser 8/27/2002)

Jane’s Intelligence Review reports that the US is working with India, Iran, and Russia “in a concerted front against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.” India is supplying the Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers, and helicopter technicians and both India and Russia are using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operation. (Bedi 3/15/2001)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization logo. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization logo. [Source: Shanghai Cooperation Organization]The Shanghai Five (see 1996) becomes known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and expands to include Uzbekistan. (BBC 6/11/2001) SCO member-states agree unanimously to take the organization to a “higher level” and expand its mission beyond the original objectives of resolving border disputes and dealing with Islamic separatists to include issues such as regional economic development, commerce, and investment. (Shanghai Cooperation [.org] 6/20/2005) Leaders of the organization’s member-states say they hope the SCO will counterbalance US dominance of world affairs. According to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the organization will foster “world multi-polarization” and contribute to the “establishment of a fair and reasonable international order.” (Associated Press 6/15/2001) During their meeting in Shanghai, members sign a letter of support for the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (see May 26, 1972), which the United States has said it wants to scrap to make way for a missile defense shield (see December 13, 2001). (BBC 6/15/2001) SCO members say the defense system will have a “negative impact on world security.” (Associated Press 6/15/2001) One Russian official at the meeting says the 1972 ABM Treaty is the “cornerstone of global stability and disarmament.” (BBC 6/15/2001) China and Russia also discuss collaborating on a joint program to develop a radar system capable of tracking US F-117A stealth fighter planes. (Lam 6/20/2001)

Niaz Naik.Niaz Naik. [Source: Calcutta Telegraph (left)]Three former American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Deputy Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs), and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. (Cave 8/16/2002) This is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called “brainstorming on Afghanistan.” Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. (Steele et al. 9/22/2001) At the meeting, Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, “I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action.” (Leigh 9/26/2001) Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to “take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.” The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime, and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate. Naik also says, “It was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban.” (Arney 9/18/2001) One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between “carpets of bombs” —an invasion—or “carpets of gold” —the pipeline. (Brisard and Dasquie 2002, pp. 43) Naik contends that Tom Simons made the “carpets” statement. Simons claims, “It’s possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can’t resist the temptation to be mischievous.” Naik and the other American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. (Cave 8/16/2002)

A Mirage 2000-D fighter in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in February 2002.A Mirage 2000-D fighter in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in February 2002. [Source: Shamil Zhumatov/ Reuters]Witnesses begin to report US military planes secretly landing at night in the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The US, Tajik, and Uzbek governments initially deny that any US troops have been sent there. (Sherwell et al. 9/23/2001; Associated Press 9/25/2001) By October 5, witnesses say a “huge military buildup” has already occurred. (Kleveman 10/4/2001) In fact, on September 22, the US and Russia signed a secret agreement allowing the US to use bases in the Central Asian countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, but only on a temporary basis (see September 13-22, 2001). The US then makes deals with individual countries:
Uzbekistan - On October 7, the US and Uzbekistan sign a secret agreement that reportedly is “a long term commitment to advance security and regional stability.” (Fidler and Stern 10/13/2001) The US is allowed to use the massive K2 (Karshi-Khanabad) air base in southern Uzbekistan. CIA teams begin arriving at the base just days after 9/11, while an agreement to use the base is still being worked out, and by mid-October there are 2,000 US troops there. Germany is also allowed to set up a resupply base in Termez, close to the border with Afghanistan. (Rashid 2008, pp. 70-71)
Kyrgyzstan - The US begins using the Manas air base in the nearby country of Kyrgyzstan in December 2001. “There are no restrictions” in the agreement on what the US can do with this base, and it will be a “transportation hub” for the whole region. (Schmitt and Dao 1/9/2002) The base is only 200 miles from China. (Grier 1/17/2002)
Tajikistan - The French are allowed to base their Mirage fighters at Dushanbe, Tajikistan. They will withdraw in November 2005. (Rashid 2008, pp. 70-71)
Turkmenistan - Turkmenistan only allows US overflight rights and support for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Kazakhstan - Kazakhstan initially only allows US overflight rights as well. But in March 2002 it will be reported that US special forces are training troops in Kazakhstan in a secret location (see March 30, 2002). (Rashid 2008, pp. 70-71)
In early 2002, it will be reported that the US military bases in the region, “originally agreed as temporary and emergency expedients, are now permanent.” (Tisdall 1/16/2002)

The K2 (Karshi-Khanabad) US airbase in southeastern Uzbekistan. It was established in late 2001.The K2 (Karshi-Khanabad) US airbase in southeastern Uzbekistan. It was established in late 2001. [Source: Confidential source via Robin Moore]The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan has recently signed a treaty committing the US to respond to “any external threat” to the country. Uzbekistan’s foreign minister explains: “The logic of the situation suggests that the United States has come here with a serious purpose, and for a long time.” According to a Washington Post report, the other Central Asian nations—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—have similar agreements with the US. The US claims it is supporting democracy in these nations, but experts say authoritarianism has been on the rise since 9/11. The US military has been in Uzbekistan since 2001. A new US military base in Uzbekistan currently holds about 1,000 US soldiers, but is being greatly enlarged. The article makes the general point that the US is replacing Russia as the dominant power in Central Asia. (Kaiser 8/27/2002)

The United States exports arms to 25 countries this year. Of these, 18 are involved in ongoing conflicts, including Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Colombia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Israel. Sales to these countries total almost $1 billion, with most it—$845.6 million—going to Israel. More than half of the top 25 recipients are currently designated “undemocratic” by the US State Department’s Human Rights Report. Those countries—including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan—account for more than $2.7 billion in US sales. When countries with a poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are also added to the list, 20 of the top 25 US arms recipients, or 80 percent, are either undemocratic regimes or governments with a poor human rights record. (Berrigan and Hartung 6/2005; Bender 11/13/2006)


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