The US has announced that it is restoring military aid to the government of Uzbekistan, which had been banned since 2003 because of the human rights situation in the country.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a waiver allowing the US to reinstate technical military assistance to Uzbekistan in the form of non-lethal defensive weapons and equipment.
According to the Wall Street Journal
(WSJ), Clinton’s new policy on aid will be effective until 13th September 2013 and is subject to review every six months.
The decision to ban military aid to Tashkent was taken in 2003 by the administration of President George Bush, a Republican.
Washington’s new thaw on military aid ironically coincides with a worsening in Uzbekistan’s human rights record and as President Karimov continues to refuse any concessions on the issue.
Human Rights Watch, the respected
|This is a fundamentally wrong decision, and sends the wrong signal to Uzbekistan and to the world"|
|Hugh Williamson, Human Rights Watch|
human rights organization, called the decision to restore military aid to Uzbekistan “very disappointing”.
“This is a fundamentally wrong decision, and sends the wrong signal to Uzbekistan and to the world,” said Hugh Williamson, Director of HRW’s of Europe and Central Asia division, in an interview with Uznews.net.
The human rights situation in Uzbekistan did worsen considerably in 2003, and Williamson believes that this latest decision will be understood as a sign that US politicians are indifferent to this issue.
The US needs Uzbekistan as part of its transit network for supplying troops in Afghanistan. The importance of the country to America is summed up in the single abbreviation NDN – the Northern Distribution Network – for the sake of which Washington is prepared to turn a blind eye to what is happening in the Uzbekistan.
The Americans’ reliance on the NDN is increasing, particularly in the light of the USA’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014, and also in the context of the worsening relationship with Pakistan, which has all but closed off the southern supply route for cargo and troops.
Currently, the USA is using Uzbekistan to transit non-military cargoes. Washington is looking to widen the selection of permitted cargoes to include military technology and equipment, as it is prepares for its withdrawal from Afghanistan in two years time, the WSJ claims.
This would mean they would have to sign a new agreement with Tashkent, which involves relaxing its stance on several key issues, including human rights.
The military and technical assistance the US can now extend to Uzbekistan will include funding for personnel protective equipment, night vision goggles and border control technology, among other items.
Aid to Uzbekistan, “is in our interests… because this is to support our troops,” said Robert Blake, assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia at a forum in Washington last week.
The US could have continued to use the transit route through Uzbekistan without lifting its sanctions, Hugh Williamson claims. “The human rights situation has only worsened over the last nine years, and therefore Uzbekistan has done nothing to merit the lifting of these sanctions,” he told Uznews.net.