Uzbekistan boots US military

The regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, heretofore attempting to play both sides in the Great Game between Moscow and Washington, appears to have finally and decisively thrown in its lot with the former. From Pakistan’s Daily Times, via AFP July 31:

US military evicted from Uzbek air base
WASHINGTON — Uzbekistan has formally evicted the US from a military base that has served as a hub for its combat operations in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Citing unnamed Pentagon and State Department officials, the newspaper reported the notice of eviction from Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was delivered by a courier from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry to the US Embassy in Tashkent on Friday. Uzbekistan will give the United States 180 days to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, according to the report. The Post said the US would face several logistical problems for its operations in Afghanistan, if the decision was acted upon. Karshi-Khanabad has been a landing base to transfer humanitarian goods that are then taken by road into Afghanistan, particularly to Mazar-i-Sharif — with no alternative for a region difficult to reach in the winter, the report said. K2 is also a refueling base with a runway long enough for large military aircraft, the paper pointed out. Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the US military does not depend on one base in any part of the world.

Now, who wants to take bets: will Karimov be destabilized by a new outburst of unrest before those 180 days are out?

See our last post on the Great Game.

  1. Uzbekistan boots US military
    Uzbekistan boots US military

    I was deployed there in 2003 and 2004…

    While I’m dissapointed that the Uzbek Govt would issue this ultimatum I’m not really surprised.

    Close contact with the West and Western ideas do not help Karimov, his position, or help him with retaining control.

    My many discussions with the locals that I had daily contact with led me to understand many things including;
    -how truly repressive their govt and Karimov are,
    -how much K2 and the American presence benefited the local economy,
    -our impact on local populations by exposing them to average Americans and American (western) ideas and beliefs (free press, elections and generally “how we do it in America”),

    As I worked with the Engineers on base, I had first hand knowledge of how much money we sunk into our part of the base and into the infrastructure overall. While many of the buildings are not permanent and can be moved fairly easily, we sunk many, many hundreds of millions of dollars into that base that can never be recovered.
    These improvements included construction of an additional runway, enlargment of the aircraft ramp, soil improvements (grading, removal of contaminated soil, etc), roads, an approximatly 20 mile long concrete permimiter wall, and more.

    Several times I talked with one of my workers, a local resident who had served (and retired from) the Army both under the Soviets and later under Uzbek control after independence about the local area, about the future of the base and of American-Uzbek relations.

    Although we both hoped the relation would be a long, long one; we agreed that it was more likely that at some point, after sufficient monies has been sunk into the base, Karimov would kick the US out over some issue and simply take over the base.

    Personally, I’d like to see us gut the place and move everything that can be moved down to Mazar-e-Sharif. I know that there are good roads between K2 and Mazar because I drove that very road in Dec of 2003 and although winter can be tough at times its not impassable.

    We should have expected this and prepared for this by expanding our small base at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport.
    In my opinion Our closest bases in the region, Manas and Baghram, will be hard pressed to pick up the slack, both in space for troops and equipment to pick up the operations that will have to close at K2 and to handle the logistics that flowed thru K2. (K2 served as a logistics buffer/stockpile for many classes of supplies that flowed into the region.)

    While our military will obviously improvise, adapt and overcome; and our troops will salute and carry on, we did not need to give such a “gift” to a truly corrupt and opressive regime such as this.

    It would have been far better to, as soon as practical, begin building up the base at Mazar then to shift operations to there over many months.

    We really never needed more than a small contingent at K2 after we had a foothold in northern Afghanistan. All that was needed was refueling and radar equipment, and the option for emergency landing capabilities if that.

    Our money would have been far better spent investing in improvements to the airport at Mazar-e-sharif with the intent to turn it all over the the afghan government when we reduce troop numbers.
    The afghans would have welcomed the local investemnt and we would have seriously locked-in the good will of the local population.

    To be politically incorrect for a moment, as much as I care for my Uzbek friends and I have hope for the future of their country…

    screw Karimov and his regime.

    They are part of the problem, not the solution.


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