Central Asia Theater
From the UK Guardian, Sept. 21:
Western aid groups and journalists, including the BBC, helped Islamists in a bid to overthrow the Uzbek government, prosecutors claimed yesterday at the start of a trial of 15 men accused of organising May's uprising in Andijan.
China's bid to purchase the US oil major Unocal foiled by Chevron, which beat the Chinese firm CNOOC to the punch, it is now seeking a stake in the Caspian Basin oilfields of Kazakhstan--where Chevron is a major investor.
From the Aug. 1 AP. Rights groups are protesting that 15 Uzbek refugees are to be forcibly repatriated from Kyrgyzstan. But this is after 440 were flown to Romania to seek asylum in Europe last week over the objections of Uzbekistan's government. This happened immediately before Uzbekistan announced it was giving the US military the boot—and may have helped precipitate it...
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.
The Great Game for control of Central Asia goes on. A few weeks ago, Russia and China, via the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led a call for the US to set a deadline for its withdrawal from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Today Donald Rumsfeld is back in the region and Kyrgyzstan, at least, is equivocating on demanding a timetable for withdrawal. From today's BBC:
Meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, July 5, the regional grouping known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) issued a statement that called on the US to establish a timetable for withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia. Led by Russia and China, the grouping also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
RFE/RL Newsline reports July 1 that a leading Uzbek opposition figure, Muhammad Solih, is seeking to use a visit to Washington to urge the US and European Union to expand their support for "democracy activists" in Uzbekistan.
"We do not ask for a lot from the West," Solih said. "We want the West to aid the legalization of political parties in Uzbekistan. We would like the West to aid the leaders of the opposition to function in Uzbekistan, to ensure the conduct of fair elections in Uzbekistan and the participation of the opposition in those elections and to ensure the existence of a free press. This in and of itself is enough to ensure the peaceful removal of this antidemocratic regime."
Russia has increased its support for the embattled government of Uzbekistan, announcing that it will soon conduct joint military exercises with the regime of President Islam Karimov. The announcement by Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defense minister, was broadcast in Moscow after a meeting with Karimov. Ivanov said the maneuvers would be in central Uzbekistan this summer, the first since Uzbekistan broke from the Soviet Union in 1991.