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Background Briefing on Uzbekistan

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
February 24, 2004
Background Briefing on Uzbekistan

     Senior Defense Official:  Our next stop is Uzbekistan.  We'll be going from the airport, kind of take a little windshield tour on the way to meet with the government.  The first meeting will be with the Foreign Minister, the President -- do you need the names?  Because I'll run through it.  Okay, you know that. Foreign Minister, President, Minister of Defense, possibly the National Security Advisor, that's not clear, and the Prime Minister. I think he'll probably be in that meeting. That's what we've heard, but sometimes that can change.

 

     The first meeting will be, as I said, a meeting with all the players, then there will be a small meeting with President Karimov for about a half an hour.

 

     I think that you're probably all aware that in March 2002 a Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the U.S. and Uzbekistan was signed.  It talked about broadening and deepening the cooperation between the United States and Uzbekistan and committed Uzbekistan to a number of reforms, not just in the area of the military but also political and economic reform. I think that's an important backdrop to where we are at this point in time because the Secretary of State is going to have to certify whether or not some of the criteria that was taken from this partnership declaration is met.  That's in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. Part of the elements of that document have been repeated in there.  So I give that to you as backdrop because I'm sure you've seen some of the, if not written about some of the human rights issues.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Senior Defense Official:  In FY03 I think there was about $13 million in FMS.  That included a supplemental.  What's pending now is FY04 money, which is about $10 million I think in FMS. IMEF I don't know, it's a million or two.  I'd have to check on that.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Foreign Military (Inaudible.) financing.

 

     Q:  -- indication of how they're going, how it's going in them meeting those obligations under the partnership of cooperation?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Can I first just give you a little bit of background?  That way I can --

 

     To get back, what we've done essentially with them in terms of foreign military financing in the last couple of years, their priorities have been education, in particular NCO, developing an NCO, non-commissioned officer corps; English-language training so they can be in more schools; communications equipment.  One of the main defense goals under the leadership of Minister of Defense Gulomov who I think you'll get to probably meet. He's a well-spoken, Western-trained scientist, actually.  Has been to build interoperability, especially with NATO forces.  They're very keen on becoming more involved with the Partnership for Peace.  He's very intent upon Westernizing their forces, not just reducing numbers but restructuring everything from the way they do their personnel systems to how they promote and who they promote.  So I think what you see in Minister of Defense Gulomov is quite a reformer.

 

     Minister of Foreign Affairs Safayev, he used to be the Ambassador to the United States until, I think, late last year.

 

     One of the other important factors to keep in mind is that Karshi Khanabad which is in Uzbekistan has been pivotal to our operations in Afghanistan.  It's one of the bases from which we conduct a lot of support operations and humanitarian operations into Afghanistan.

 

     One of the questions on the Uzbeks' minds, like many of the other places we've gone, is what is intended?  What is the U.S. going to do in its global posture review?  So that will be a topic of conversation when we get there.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Senior Defense Official:  The global review that the Secretary has said is underway in terms of how the U.S. arrayed overseas and where we might have access to, who we will cooperate with.  That's going to be also an issue that will come up, probably quite high on their agenda of things to talk about.

 

     Q:  We don't plan to ask them for basing, do we?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  We already have access and cooperation at Karshi Khanabad.  They will probably have on their mind, well where are you guys going in the future?  I think this will be a subject of conversation.

 

     The Secretary, as you know, as he said on some of these other trips, no final decisions have been taken.

 

     Q:  How many troops does the U.S. currently have stationed in Uzbekistan and at how many different locations?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I know that we've got somewhere around a thousand is what the unclas number is at Karshi Khanabad.  There are also contractors and other things.

 

     Q:  Is that the only base we're operating out of now?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Yeah.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  The Polish and allies are down at [Turnowz].

 

     Q:  The U.S. (Inaudible.), what kind of support?  UAVs?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I can't answer that question.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Karshi Khanabad, also known as K2. K-A-R-S-H-I

K-H-A-N-A-B-A-D.

 

     Q:  -- in terms of what your longer term intentions are for the use of Karshi Khanabad. Is that a place that you envision using over the long term as part of --

 

     Senior Defense Official:  At this point the Secretary said we haven't made any decisions.  Obviously our operations in Afghanistan are still ongoing.  It's very important to those.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.) air force bases?  I just want to make sure I understand.

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Karshi Khanabad?  I don't know if it was just an air base under Soviet times or --

 

     Q:  -- our Air Force there.

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Well we also, I can give you kind of a layout of the kinds of troops we have there, but essentially they're doing support operations and humanitarian.

 

     Q:  Does the SecDef plan, I realize this is more in the State Department's area, but does the SecDef plan to raise the human rights issue as you always do with them?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Usually it's the State Department area.  I think our view as a U.S. government has been that we want to see reform across the board -- political, economic, and military reform. So it's not something that I think you should identify, anyone should identify as just one agency's view.  I think the Strategic Partnership Document, and I have copies if you want to look at it, pledge both countries to work together and we pledge to assist the Uzbeks as they reform in all these areas, whether it's market economy or whether it's political process.

 

     Q:  So human rights would you say is likely to be discussed?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I expect in some way.

 

     Q:  To follow up on my colleague’s question, though, in December the State Department concluded that the Uzbek government hadn't made enough progress and the Bush Administration decided to go ahead anyway and grant a waiver, I believe.  But there's another part of the agreement that cannot be waived. Is that going to come up?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I think you're talking about cooperative threat reduction certification which is different.  This is a certification from the Secretary of State.  What I'm talking about is the one that's in the foreign operations bill from last year and it refers to fiscal year '04 funds.

 

     Q:  -- threat reduction agreement --

 

     Senior Defense Official:  The certification is, and I'll have to get you the exact language, but it pulls out elements of the Strategic Partnership document and says there has to be sufficient progress.  I can give you the exact language.

 

     Q:  What happens if it's not certified? If they decide it hasn't been --

 

     Senior Defense Official:  -- frozen and they don't have access to FMF or IMEF. I don't know what other funds.  I'd have to look.

 

     Q:  How much is the total again? Did you say 14 million?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  For '04 I know that the FMF figure is 10 million. I don't know what in addition. I have to look that up. Sorry.

 

     Q:  -- Islamic movement of Uzbekistan?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  It's still there.  It's still operating in the region and it still remains a threat.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.) is still the leader, is that right?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Yes, but I don't know in terms of recent attacks, I'd have to look.

 

     Q:  -- crack down, knock down the group at all?

Senior Defense Official:  I can't, since they move around I frankly don't know where they've necessarily been most active and I'm really not up to date on that, sorry.

 

     Q:  The government announced yesterday that they were considering a pardon for this woman who was jailed, the mother of a terrorist who was tortured and all.  Would you all welcome that if they granted her a pardon?  That caused quite a stir.

 

     Senior Defense Official:  Much as the U.S. welcomes any and all progress on human rights, political reform, economic reform, military reform, across the board.

 

     Q:  Is it likely to be discussed at all by Secretary Rumsfeld?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I'm not going to tell you what specifics he's going to talk about.

 

     Q:  -- certification due to made?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I need to check on that. I know it's some time in the spring.  I just don't know exactly what the dates are.

 

     Q:  How does Russia look toward this?  And do they have any other problems in the neighborhood maybe that they would like the United States to intervene with?

 

     Is the U.S. and Uzbekistan getting closer to having a strong relationship?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  As we've found with all the other relationships that we've had with countries in the region that the Russians remain very sensitive.  But our view has been that we've been transparent on what we've done.  We work with the countries that want to work with us on the things they want to work with us on, and in our view that stability is really founded upon the development of independent states that are making progress in political, economic, market economy, and that's what's good for the region over time so we're going to continue to do that.

 

     Q:  Are there any issues that affect U.S. security, liberation, narcotics, any major issues?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  We've been working with the Uzbeks on the cooperative threat reduction types of issues.  I don't remember offhand but there's a center in Tashkent that has been tracking and working on proliferation issues that we've supported.  So it's always a concern.  Whether you have the IMU or any other terrorist group, you worry about narcotics smuggling.  We are trying to help the Uzbeks with that.  This whole nexus of narcotics smuggling, trafficking in arms.  The bad guys seem to do bad things across the board.

 

     Q:  Do those kinds of networks still exist in Uzbekistan?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I don't know if they exist.  I would say they exist in the region, the question is where they move.  Where they come, where they go.  It might be more prevalent at sometimes in certain countries to another.  If you look at the map of Uzbekistan you see Kyrgystan and the [Pravana] Valley where there are a lot of problems.  There's no, I would say the borders are porous so we've spent a lot of time on border security issues also.

 

     Q:   Two questions.  One, what are your proliferation concerns?  But also, second, now that you raise it, anything you're doing in terms of offering them assistance or anything they want from you on border security?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  We've got some ongoing border security programs.  We've got an ongoing program with the narcotics office in the Pentagon, working with them on training border guards. Under the cooperative threat reduction program we can not only provide technical assistance but some equipment.  I can get you that kind of information if you'd like.

 

     Q:  -- on the agenda this time?

 

     Senior Defense Official:  I think we're always concerned about proliferation in the region.  I can't say that there's one specific thing that we're concerned about.

 

     Thank you.

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