Uzbekistan tells U.S. military to leave
Published Aug 6, 2005 8:51 PM
The government of Uzbekistan hand-delivered
an eviction notice to the Penta gon on July 29, via U.S. Embassy officials in
the capital of Tashkent. The official document ordered the U.S. to close its
military base in Karshi-Khanabad in the south of the country within 180 days.
Just days earlier, U.S. Defense Secre tary Donald Rumsfeld had assured
report ers that it wouldn’t matter much if Tash kent issued a demand to
vacate the base. Rumsfeld said the Uzbek base wasn’t all that important to
Pentagon operations against Afghanistan. “We’re always thinking
ahead,” he told reporters. “We’ll be fine.”
May, however, Pentagon mouthpiece Bryan Whitman had described the Uzbek base as
“undeniably critical in supporting our combat operations.”
Why is there a U.S. airbase in this former Soviet republic in the first
place? The U.S. military moved into the base, dubbed K2, just weeks after the
9/11 attacks in 2001, which served as the pretext for the Pentagon to invade
Since then, thousands of National Guard, Reserve and active
duty units have used the base as a logistical hub to launch military operations,
move military supplies, and house aircraft, equipment and some 3,000 U.S.
troops. The base’s long runway can accommodate large military planes,
making costly mid-air refueling unnecessary.
editor of “Jane’s Land Based Air Defence” and owner of the
British-based company Research Analyst Defense, stressed that “the close
could have significant impact on the way U.S. forces conduct and support combat
and reconstruction operations in neighboring Afghanistan.” (EurasiaNet,
Reconstruction? Tell that to the Afghan people who are suffering
terrible deprivation from the war.
Col. James Yonts said the Pentagon will
now have to fortify and expand its air bases in Afghanistan at Bagram, north of
Kabul; Kandahar in the south; and Manas in nearby Kyrgyzstan.
armed the ‘unarmed’ coup attempt?
is that this ouster is rooted in events in the eastern city of Andijan in
Uzbekistan on May 12 and 13.
Tashkent officials maintained that their
soldiers suppressed a coup in Andijan, killing some 170 people, half of whom
they described as armed militants. Western-backed “human rights”
agencies argue that far more were killed and that these were unarmed, peaceful
The reported rioting in Andijan followed
“color-coded” coups in former Soviet Republics: next-door neighbor
Kyrgystan, Ukraine and Georgia. Wash ington is widely believed to have had a
hand in these “regime changes.”
The events at Andijan
don’t sound so peaceful when described by Kabul Par piyev, identified as a
fugitive leader of the May 12-13 attempt to overthrow the Uzbek government. He
surfaced for an interview with journalist Alisher Saipov, published in The Globe
and Mail of Toronto on Aug. 1.
Parpiyev describes his group as having
been armed with handguns and submachine guns. He recalls cars and buildings
burning as his men organized a jail break for 23 local businessmen reportedly
accused of religious extremism. He vowed to continue to use terror tactics to
overturn the current government.
Reporter Saipov arranged follow-up
telephone interviews with Parpiyev, including one with The Times of London.
Political to-ing and fro-ing
Since May, Washington has used
the events at Andijan as a political lever over the Uzbek government. “The
White House was at first muted in its criticism of the massacre,”
explained the Guardian of Britain on Aug. 1, “but the State Depart ment
has grown increasingly vocal in condemning the attack and calling for an
On July 28, U.S. and British ambassadors
tried to change the subject at a closed-door Security Council briefing about
Africa and put Andijan on the agenda. Russia blocked the maneuver.
following morning, at 5:30 a.m., a Boeing 747 ostensibly arranged by the UN used
the K2 base to airlift to Romania more than 440 Uzbeks who had crossed the
border into Kyrgystan. Romanian For eign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said
that the Uzbeks would travel on to other countries, including the U.S., where
they will undoubtedly be debriefed and some recruited by U.S. intelligence
That same day U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
telephoned the Kyrgyz government to demand the release from its district jail in
Osh of Uzbek prisoners who face criminal charges stemming from the Andijan coup
attempt. At least initially, Kyrgystan refused to comply.
immediately ordered the Pentagon base closed within 180 days, result ing in the
cancellation of senior State Department official R. Nicolas Burns’ plans
to travel to Tashkent to demand an international investigation into
Washington may tighten the thumb screws on Tashkent’s
leaders. “NATO defense ministers are to meet in Berlin next month,”
reported the Aug. 1 Finan cial Times. “German officials said Donald Rums
feld, U.S. defense secretary, could use the meeting to galvanize opposition to
Uzbekistan. The U.S. had tried to get criticism of the Uzbek government included
in the final communiqué of a meeting in June.”
officials are expressing worries that if Washington ratchets up pressure on
Tashkent, Berlin may lose its key military base in southern Uzbekistan, which
houses transport aircraft and helicopters, and flies troops and supplies to
German operations in the Kabul area and the northern towns of Feyzbad and
“There isn’t a sensible alternative to this
base,” bemoaned a German defense ministry official.
the first of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics now in the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization to order the Pentagon out of its country. On July 5,
the SCO—made up of China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and
Kazak hstan, and with new observer members Iran, India, Pakistan and
Mongolia—demanded that the U.S. provide a time table for militarily
pulling out of Afghanistan and Central Asia.
That’s why today a
front group like Freedom House, which receives funding from the U.S. government
through the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and the State Department,
ranks Uzbekistan “not free,” along with Zimba bwe, Syria and North
Korea—countries that have refused to surrender their sovereignty to
The order to close the K2 airbase is just one move on what
Zbigniew Brzezinski cynically referred to as “the Great Chess board”
of Central Asia. In his book by the same name, Brzezinski—advisor to the
Rockefeller dynasty and the Carter administration—reiterated the
importance of U.S. finance capital securing a monopoly over the energy-rich and
geopolitically strategic region.
But U.S. imperialism is finding it hard
to impose its hegemony and the profits of war are not flowing like
The sheer might of the Pentagon was able to set up Hamid Karzai as
titular president of occupied Afghanistan and Zalmay Khalilzad as U.S.
ambassador to occupied Iraq. Both have been insiders with the Bush-connected oil
company, Unocal. Nevertheless, the military machine is mired, facing strong
insurgency in Iraq and renewed resistance in Afghanistan.
just signed a strategic partnership agreement with Moscow involv ing a
$1-billion investment by Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom. (The
Scotsman, Aug. 1)
Now the Pentagon is being booted out of its first base
in Central Asia since 9/11.
Does this matter to U.S. finance capital? In
the lingo of Rumsfeld himself: “You bet.”
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