Uzbekistan's rapprochement with U.S. is logical, as it plays a key role in transporting cargo to Afghanistan

Uzbekistan's rapprochement with the United States is logical, because Uzbekistan plays an important role for NATO operations in Afghanistan and the U.S. is one of the key players in establishing stability in Central Asia.


"Uzbekistan is, of course, interested in supporting relationship with the United States as a key player in the process of resolving the situation in Afghanistan, or maintaining it in a stable state," Uzbek Expert Sergey Yezhkov believes.


The Commander of the U.S Central Command, David Petraeus has visited Uzbekistan this week. The meeting between the general and President Islam Karimov discussed the strengthening of cooperation and interest in the two countries.


Uzbekistan and the United States cooperate in establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan, as well as in socio-economic restoration of this country. Non-military and humanitarian cargo is transported to Afghanistan through Uzbekistan.


This is Petraeus's second visit to Tashkent this year. Earlier, he visited Uzbekistan in February.


Regarding restoring stability in Afghanistan, the general's visit and his contacts with the Uzbek president and senior officials is quite logical, Yezhkov told Trend News in a telephone conversation from Tashkent.


According to experts, the countries are interested in bilateral cooperation.


Both countries' common interest is clear, said Igor Torbakov, Expert on Interests and Politics of Russia toward the CIS countries, particularly Central Asia.


"The United States needs additional routes and, preferably, the bases for the movement of cargos and reserves in Afghanistan, while Uzbekistan seeks to enlist the U.S.'s support as a potential geopolitical counterweight to Russia," leading Research Fellow of the Finnish Institute of International Relations, Torbakov wrote to Trend News in an email.


The agreement allowing the Americans to transport non-military goods to Afghanistan through Uzbekistan was signed in April, shortly after Kyrgyzstan's decision to close the NATO Manas base in the country.


Uzbekistan is one of the key countries for the NATO antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, which started after the Sept. 11 events in 2001, experts believe.


Uzbekistan is, arguably, the key country in Central Asia, European Expert on Central Asia, Bruce Pannier believes. It borders all other Central Asian states and Afghanistan, has the biggest population and the strongest military of the five Central Asian states, the expert said.


"Maybe more importantly for the U.S., Uzbek President Islam Karimov is the most active of the five Central Asian leaders in seeking out and eliminating the threat of Islamic extremism," Pannier wrote Trend News in an email.


Karimov was openly hostile to the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan. Uzbekistan's domestic Islamic extremist group - the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan - is linked to Al Qaeda, the expert said.



In addition, Uzbekistan has the Termez military airport, which Germany uses as part of the anti-terrorist operation.


A main stream of non-military goods, necessary for the normal life of the antiterrorist coalition in Afghanistan, passes via the Termez port / road station, said Yezhkov. In addition, according to experts, the humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, which is received from all over the world, including from Russia and several CIS countries have also rendered through the road station.


So, from the U.S. point of view - Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan, has leadership with a longstanding record of being vehemently opposed to exactly the groups the U.S. and its allies are fighting in Afghanistan among the neighbor countries, Pannier said.


"The risk of strong domestic public disapproval, or public interference, in Uzbekistan is negligible and probably non-existent," the expert said.


Moreover, Pannier believes the landscape west of the Ferghana Valley is also relatively flat and could more easily accommodate these land convoys from Europe, through Russia and down through Central Asia into Afghanistan than roads in mountainous Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.



For Uzbekistan, the United States is playing a role as a regional counterweight to Russia.


"Petraeus's visit should also be considered regarding the recent Russian-Uzbek clash over the offered Russian base in Kyrgyzstan," said Torbakov.


In early August, Russia and Kyrgyzstan signed a memorandum on to further develop and improve a bilateral legal framework regulating the presence of the Russian troops in Kyrgyzstan and the deployment of additional Russian military contingent in the country.


Uzbekistan's relations with neighbour Kyrgyzstan are more than strained. They have exacerbated due to the water problem - Uzbekistan opposes the construction of hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan which needs additional electricity.


Tashkent, according to Torbakov, absolutely unequivocally made it clear that it opposes the idea, because the presence of additional Russian military forces near the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border is considered by the top Uzbek as a negative factor that could disrupt the fragile geopolitical balance in the region.


Tashkent apparently does not want strengthening of its regional rival - Kyrgyzstan, said Torbakov.

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