In a move initiated by the Obama administration, the US Senate Appropriations Committee voted this month to waive Bush-era human rights restrictions on military aid to the Islam Karimov dictatorship in Uzbekistan. The lifting of the restrictions, now part of the Foreign Operations bill, is before the full Senate and appears to have bipartisan support. (Eurasia Review, Nov. 12)
Uzbekistan has suddenly become more strategic as a US supply route to Afghanistan following the closing of the Khyber Pass by Pakistani authorities. The renewed closeness with the US, however, may enflame Islamic militants in Uzbekistan. In what was described as a terrorist attack, on Nov. 17 the rail line was blown up on a bridge at the Termez terminal at the Uzbek-Afghanistan border. (Asia Times Online, Dec. 2)
According to Reuters, NATO supplies into Afghanistan are roughly divided into thirds: a third goes overland via Pakistan, a third by air, and a third overland via the Northern Distribution Network through Central Asia, primarily Uzbekistan. The US had already been trying to increase the share of cargo shipped via the northern route, concerned about the reliability of Pakistan. (Eurasianet, Nov. 26)
See our last post on the Great Game in Central Asia.