We Are Seeing a Deliberate Provocation of the Conflict In the Caspian Sea

27/09/2011

Brussels opened the door for Berdimuhamedov

Victoria Panfilova

EU starts talks on Trans-Caspian pipeline

At a meeting in New York late last week the chairman of the European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso has invited the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to visit Brussels in “anytime.”

The reason for such a warm relationship – in the EU’s intention to begin negotiations in October on the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline that would connect Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. However, experts believe that Europe has little chance to promote your project.

Issues of cooperation in the energy sector has become a priority during a meeting in New York Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President Jose Manuel Barroso. Turkmen president invited the European companies “to a wide mutually advantageous cooperation in energy sector.” According to the press service of the Turkmen State Berdimuhamedov assured his interlocutor that “imposing the country’s capacity allows for the implementation of large-scale international projects that benefit all parties involved.”

Support for Berdimuhamedov Barroso today than ever. In early September, the EC gave a mandate to start negotiations on the preparation of an agreement between the European Union, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the implementation of the Trans-Caspian project.Negotiations between the parties will begin in October, and Brussels hopes the agreement signed before the end of the year, and get gas – in 2017. The project implementation would weaken the EU energy dependence on Russia, providing today, according to the German agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), about a quarter of the European market.In Brussels convinced that the Trans-Caspian pipeline project is important both from the standpoint of diversification of EU energy imports and to diversify exports to the position of Baku and Ashgabat.

Recall that the project involves laying a 300-kilometer gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan’s coast, where it will be connected to the “Southern Gas Corridor.” This project was developed in 1996 as an alternative to the Russian-Turkish project “Blue Stream”. The appearance of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline coincided with the announcement by the U.S. Black Sea-Caspian region a zone of its strategic interests.

Laying pipes under the Caspian prevents its unsettled status and the positions of Moscow and Tehran, which strongly opposed the project. “Therefore, the question of whether to help solve the problem of the new mandate of the EU remains open,” – said during the conference “paradigms of international cooperation in the Caspian Sea”, held recently in Aktau, a leading expert of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Alexander Knyazev. In his view, to Moscow and Tehran may well join Astana – Kazakhstan has a low profile and its relation to the project had not yet formulated. In particular, as stated by Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Kairat Sarybai, “we have not yet worked out a position on this issue in order to promulgate it.” “I can only say that we, the littoral countries have agreed to: the legal status of the Caspian Sea to solve only a five-party format,” – said Sarybai.

Kazakh diplomat statement does not fit into the context of the EU’s claim that “for the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline is enough of bilateral agreements between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.” According to the director of the center “PolitKontakt” Andrei Medvedev, the “utopian to imagine that the pipeline will be built in the absence of consent of all five Caspian littoral states.” “For Ashgabat neighborly relations with Tehran is more important than risk a quarrel with him because of Trans-Caspian” – thinks Medvedev.According to him, if ever in Iran’s pro-Western regime will be replaced by, then it is preferable to lay the pipe from the Turkmen fields through Iran’s Caspian lowland, than under the Caspian Sea – “this and taking into account the cost, and environmental and technical solutions.”

For all this, experts believe that the activation of the Caspian region of non-regional players enhances the tension. “We are seeing not just a desire of the EU to diversify energy supplies, but also a deliberate provocation of the conflict in the Caspian Sea, which can subsequently be used to convert it into an armed plane. It is easy to assume that Russia and Iran can veto the construction of any pipeline under the Caspian Sea and to enforce the veto. It is difficult to assume that in such a situation, someone from the Caspian states will not submit – already patrolling the waters of the Caspian Iranian and Russian fleets, each of which is superior in strength and power of the aggregate of all other navies of the Caspian “, – said Alexander Knyazev.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Turkmenistan and China will jointly combat the “three evil forces”

Turkmenistan and China will jointly combat the “three evil forces”

September 26 Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov held talks with a member of the State Council, China’s Minister of Public Safety Maine Jianzhu and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Cheng Guoping .
As the Chinese agency “Xinhua”, at a meeting with Turkmen President Meng Jianzhu said that the security situation in Central Asia, is tense and invited both parties to strengthen the fight against “three evil forces” (terrorism, separatism and extremism) and deepen bilateral and multilateral security cooperation.

In turn, Berdymukhammedov assured the Chinese side that Ashgabat is ready to strengthen cooperation with China in fighting “three evil forces” and work together to protect the security of both countries, as well as peace and stability in the region.

Participated in the meeting the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of China in Turkmenistan Xiao Qinghua .

During his visit to Turkmenistan Minister of Public Security of China has also held meetings with Minister of Internal Affairs Iskander Mulikovym and Minister of National Security Yaylymom Berdiyev .

Helping Islamists Take Syria

The U.S. is calling on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to step down and is increasingly persuaded that the uprising against his rule will be victorious. As the world wonders who will replace the regime, an Islamist-dominated group called the Syrian National Council is being embraced by Turkey and the Obama administration State Department. Genuine secular forces, meanwhile, are being left to the wayside as they struggle to save their country from both Assad and theMuslim Brotherhood.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has stated, “We have a desire to coordinate the position of the opposition.” With support from the Turkish government and a naïve U.S. State Department, it can achieve this objective. On September 15, opposition activists formed the Syrian National Council in Istanbul, the latest in a long list of umbrella groups to be formed since the uprising began.

Ammar Abdulhamid, a secular democratic activist based in the U.S., published a list of some of the members. Of the 71 named, 34 are Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood has not officially joined the alliance, but many members of it have.  The composition of the Syrian National Council is frightening other opposition groups who do not want Syria to become the next Gaza Strip. A leader of the leftist Kurdish Party said, “Turkey supports the Islamists in Syria and puts them out front. These Syrian opposition meetings in Turkey prevent the creation of a democratic, pluralistic Syria in which the rights of the Kurds are constitutionally protected and they are recognized as the second largest ethnicity in the country.”

Shockingly, the U.S. State Department and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Hamas-tied front for the Muslim Brotherhood, are together supporting the Syrian National Council. On September 24, the Los Angeles chapter of CAIR held a townhall event featuring a member of the SNC and Frederic C. Hof from the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy for the Middle East. This isn’t the first time the U.S. has supported the Islamist opposition in Syria. Files released by WikiLeaks show that the State Department funded the Movement for Justice and Development. The group split from the Muslim Brotherhood and was described in the files as “liberal, moderate Islamists” who sought to “marginalize” the Brotherhood.

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Dragging-Up the Past to Prosecute Pakistan Today

[The day before, legendary Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah was killed in a British SAS operation in Helmand (SEE:  Mullah Dadullah, Taliban top commander, killed in Helmand) , leading to the next day's series of running battles between Paktia Province in Afghanistan and Kurram Agency in Pakistan. It was a fight launched by the Taliban, intended to bring the two sides to blows (SEE:  Heaviest clash between Pakistan, Afghan forces erupts on border).  The events of that day are heavily disputed by both sides--definitely not a clear-cut story of Pakistani forces attacking Americans, but being revived today to add to the case being made about attacks in Kabul and implicating the Haqqani network, and by extension, the Pak. Army.]

Pakistanis Tied to 2007 Border Ambush on Americans

By 

KABUL, Afghanistan — A group of American military officers and Afghan officials had just finished a five-hour meeting with their Pakistani hosts in a village schoolhouse settling a border dispute when they were ambushed — by the Pakistanis.

An American major was killed and three American officers were wounded, along with their Afghan interpreter, in what fresh accounts from the Afghan and American officers who were there reveal was a complex, calculated assault by a nominal ally. The Pakistanis opened fire on the Americans, who returned fire before escaping in a blood-soaked Black Hawk helicopter.

The attack, in Teri Mangal on May 14, 2007, was kept quiet by Washington, which for much of a decade has seemed to play down or ignore signals that Pakistan would pursue its own interests, or even sometimes behave as an enemy.

The reconstruction of the attack, which several officials suggested was revenge for Afghan or Pakistani deaths at American hands, takes on new relevance given the worsening rupture in relations between Washington and Islamabad, which has often been restrained by Pakistan’s strategic importance.

The details of the ambush indicate that Americans were keenly aware of Pakistan’s sometimes duplicitous role long before Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate last week that Pakistan’s intelligence service was undermining efforts in Afghanistan and had supported insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in Kabul this month.

Though both sides kept any deeper investigations of the ambush under wraps, even at the time it was seen as a turning point by officials managing day-to-day relations with Pakistan.

Pakistani officials first attributed the attack to militants, then, when pressed to investigate, to a single rogue soldier from the Frontier Corps, the poorly controlled tribal militia that guards the border region. To this day, none of the governments have publicly clarified what happened, hoping to limit damage to relations. Both the American and Pakistani military investigations remain classified.

“The official line covered over the details in the interests of keeping the relationship with Pakistan intact,” said a former United Nations official who served in eastern Afghanistan and was briefed on the events immediately after they occurred.

“At that time in May 2007, you had a lot of analysis pointing to the role of Pakistan in destabilizing that part of Afghanistan, and here you had a case in point, and for whatever reason it was glossed over,” he said. The official did not want to be named for fear of alienating the Pakistanis, with whom he must still work.

Exactly why the Pakistanis might have chosen Teri Mangal to make a stand, and at what level the decision was made, remain unclear. Requests to the Pakistani military for information and interviews for this article were not answered. One Pakistani official who was present at the meeting indicated that the issue was too sensitive to be discussed with a journalist. Brig. Gen. Martin Schweitzer, the American commander in eastern Afghanistan at the time, whose troops were involved, also declined to be interviewed.

At first, the meeting to resolve the border dispute seemed a success. Despite some tense moments, the delegations ate lunch together, exchanged phone numbers and made plans to meet again. Then, as the Americans and Afghans prepared to leave, the Pakistanis opened fire without warning. The assault involved multiple gunmen, Pakistani intelligence agents and military officers, and an attempt to kidnap or draw away the senior American and Afghan officials.

American officials familiar with Pakistan say that the attack fit a pattern. The Pakistanis often seemed to retaliate for losses they had suffered in an accidental attack by United States forces with a deliberate assault on American troops, most probably to maintain morale among their own troops or to make a point to the Americans that they could not be pushed around, said a former American military officer who served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Looking back, there were always these attacks that could possibly be attributed to deliberate retaliation,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because his job does not permit him to talk to journalists. Pakistani forces had suffered losses before the May 14 attack, he added.

As with so many problems with Pakistan, the case was left to fester. It has since become an enduring emblem of the distrust that has poisoned relations but that is bared only at critical junctures, like Teri Mangal, or the foray by American commandos into Pakistan in May to kill Osama bin Laden, an operation deliberately kept secret from Pakistani officials.

Ruhullah Khapalwak contributed reporting.

 

Heaviest clash between Pakistan, Afghan forces erupts on border

Kabul/Islamabad – The heaviest clash so far between Afghan and Pakistani forces erupted on Sunday when Pakistani forces attempted to install an outpost in eastern Afghanistan.

There were conflicting reports on the death toll of both countries. The Afghan interior ministry said in a statement that eight Pakistani soldiers were killed and their bodies left on the battlefield while, Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said three Pakistani soldiers were injured in the “unprovoked” attack, while the Afghans took six or seven casualties.

Fighting between the two forces erupted early Sunday when the Pakistani army attempted to position their forces in mountains in Goyee area of Jaji district of the south-eastern Paktia province, General Zahir Azimi, Afghan defence ministry spokesman told a press conference.

Azimi said the advancing troops were forced to retreat and began using heavy artillery against the Afghan troops. Two children were killed while another three were injured along with two policemen, when a rocket hit a school.

He said that two Afghan police were also wounded, however, provincial police chief for Paktia Abdul Rahman Sarjang said that one policeman was killed and three others were wounded.

Azimi said that thousands of local people joined the Afghan forces from the Jaji district while tens of thousands of armed people dressed in white, beating drums and chanting “Allahu Akbar”,(God is great) were making their way to the Goyee area.

The local people fired at Pakistani helicopters which were manoeuvering in the area over Afghan soil, Azimi said, adding, “unconfirmed reports suggest that one of the helicopters which was shot and caught fire, crashed in Pakistani soil.”

However, General Arshad rejected reports that a Pakistani helicopter was shot down and said neither side crossed the border.

Arshad, confirmed that an exchange of fire took place at around 9.00 am Sunday in Pakistan’s Kurram Agency, which borders Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia Province.

“Afghan forces started uncontrolled firing on our forces,” he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The situation calmed following the arrival of US-led Coalition officials in the afternoon to investigate the incident, according to the official.

Afghanistan and Pakistan, both strong allies of US war on terror have been at loggerheads, each accusing the other of not doing enough to check cross-border infiltration.

The leaders of both countries met in Turkey late last month to ease the tension between their governments, but the latest clash indicates that the trouble is far from over.

In another separate clash between Afghan backed international forces and Taliban insurgents, 55 Taliban militants were killed in the neighbouring Paktika province on Saturday, the interior ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

In a clash in Gayan district of Paktika province Afghan police killed 40 militants, the statement said, adding that 10 bodies had been recovered.

Some 15 other militants were killed in clash with police after they attacked a police post in Barmal district of the same province around the time of the clash in Gayan, the statement added.

Turkish War Ships Escort Pire Reis Research Vessel Near Greek Cypriot Zone

Turkey\'s Piri Reis continues on its route to Mediterranean

Piri Reis

Turkish Ship Close to Cypriot Gas Search Zone

by Naharnet Newsdesk
W460

A Turkish exploration ship is searching for gas and oil “close to” a Cypriot drilling zone off the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a senior energy ministry official said Tuesday.

“Our ship is exploring gas close to the Greek Cypriot zone, and under the escort of Turkish naval vessels,” the official told Agence France Presse, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Turkish ship Piri Reis, which embarked on its controversial mission last week, started its research on Monday under military protection in the eastern Mediterranean.

The official declined to say how long the ship would be staying in that zone.

Regional tensions have been rising after the Cyprus government, recognized internationally, but not by Turkey, made a deal with U.S. energy firm Noble, which has already started exploratory drilling for gas off the southern coast of the divided island.

In retaliation, Turkey dispatched its own exploration ship to the region after signing an accord with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a statelet only recognized by Ankara, for gas search in the designated areas off the island.

Northern Distribution Network Railway and Portage Links

“The Pentagon is increasingly relying on the NDN to keep the Afghan war effort going. By the end of this year, US military planners aim to ship 75 percent all Afghan-bound, non-military cargo along the NDN, thus reducing US reliance on a Pakistani supply route.

With Turkmenistan refusing to get involved with any land transit aspect of NDN — despite a concerted effort to incentivize officials in Ashgabat — Uzbekistan stands to be able to make considerable capital from its strategic position and infrastructure.”–[SEE:  Uzbekistan: US Senate Wants Pentagon to be More Transparent on NDN Contracts]

http://www.adb.org/Documents/PCRs/UZB/30457-UZB-PCR.pdf

 

Uzbek rail: Red hot wheels to Afghanistan

A senior U.S. defense official said the military wants to keep using Pakistan, which offers the most direct and cheapest routes to Afghanistan. But the Pentagon is also developing the means to bypass the country if necessary. Below is a State Department cable related to the supply line discussion.

id: 234236
date: 2009-11-12 04:48:00
refid: 09TASHKENT1577
origin: Embassy Tashkent
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09TOKYO2590
header:
VZCZCXRO6199
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHNT #1577/01 3160515
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 120448Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TASHKENT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1513
INFO ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
CIS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CDR USTRANSCOM SCOTT AFB IL
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0102
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0005
——————- header ends ——————-
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TASHKENT 001577
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN
AMEMBASSY ASTANA PASS TO USOFFICE ALMATY
AMEMBASSY HELSINKI PASS TO AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PASS TO AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/12
TAGS: ECON, EAID, ECIN, ELTN, PREL, AF, UZ
SUBJECT: UZBEK RAIL: RED HOT WHEELS TO AFGHANISTAN
REF: 09 TOKYO 2590
CLASSIFIED BY: Robert McCutcheon, Econ Officer, State, Pol/Econ
Office; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)
1. (C) SUMMARY. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us
that Uzbekistan Railroads is having difficulty operating freight
trains on its new Karshi-Termez line. Obsolete locomotives with
inadequate brakes result in multiple delays and wheels that glow
red hot by the time a train has completed the mountain crossing.
XXXXXXXXXXXX Given the importance of the Karshi-Termez line to the Northern Distribution
Network, Post suggests the Department consider approaching Tokyo to
ensure that electrification of the Karshi-Termez line receives top
priority. END SUMMARY
ELECTRIFICATION OF THE KARSHI-TERMEZ LINE
—————————————–
2. (C) On November 9 we met with XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX
is heavily involved XXXXXXXXXXXX in the construction and
operation of Uzbek Railroad’s new line through the mountains from
Karshi to Termez. The natural, geographically dictated routing
from Karshi to Termez is via Turkmenistan, but after independence
in 1991, the GOU made the strategic decision to reduce its
dependence on routes through now foreign territory. This new
line, partially funded by XXXXXXXXXXXX, avoids Turkmen territory but has to
contend with steep mountain grades. The first trains rolled down
the new track in early 2009.
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that there have been difficulties operating
trains over the Karshi-Termez line. Most locomotives used by Uzbek
Railroads are built to the same design as U.S. lend-lease
locomotives given to the Soviet Union in World War II. Soviet
engineers copied this design and used it to produce locomotives
that came to form a significant portion of Soviet rolling stock.
The problem with Uzbekistan’s legacy Soviet locomotives is that
they were never intended for use in mountainous terrain. They have
inadequate brakes and must be operated at slow speed. On the
descents, the brakes in all wagons are applied continuously, thus
necessitating frequent stops so that the wheels can cool. XXXXXXXXXXXX
told us that by the time trains have descended from the mountains,
the wheels are glowing red hot.
4. (C) The Karshi-Termez line carries Northern Distribution Network
(NDN) rail traffic to supply U.S. forces in Afghanistan. XXXXXXXXXXXX.
5. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the next phase for the Karshi-Termez
rail line will be electrification. This will be accomplished in
four stages over a five-year period, with the steepest grades being electrified first. The cost is expected to be $550 million USD;
this includes provision for purchase of Chinese manufactured
electric locomotives.
6. (C) Only when the electrification program is complete will the
Karshi-Termez line be able to transport freight at full capacity.
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us he is worried, however, that the electrification
program is competing for priority within XXXXXXXXXXXX with a program to
rebuild power generation stations in Uzbekistan. (NOTE: We
believe XXXXXXXXXXXX is referring to the project to upgrade and reequip
TASHKENT 00001577 002 OF 002
the Tashkent Power Plant, for which XXXXXXXXXXXX is to provide
approximately $410 million USD. End Note.) One program will be
funded to begin in 2010, and the other will be funded to start in
2011. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us his XXXXXXXXXXXX contacts in Tashkent had intimated to
him that a well placed word from the USG could influence the
decision on which program gets the higher priority.
ROLLING ON BRITTLE TRACKS
————————-
7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us he was appalled at how long it takes to
transport anything by rail in Uzbekistan. About 70 percent of rail
traffic is freight, but a typical train carries only half the
freight per wagon as a U.S. wagon — 50 tons instead of 100 tons.
From conversations with Uzbek engineers, XXXXXXXXXXXX said the limitation
appears to be not the trains but the quality of the steel used in
the tracks. He described the tracks as brittle and thus subject to
fracture if higher loads are transported.
AFGHAN RAILROAD
—————
8. (C) On the ADB-funded 70-80 km rail link from Hayraton to
Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan, XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that Uzbek Railways
had padded the construction cost by more than a factor of two.
Whereas the rule of thumb for railroad construction in the U.S. is $1 million USD per mile, the budget for the new rail line in
Afghanistan is $160 million USD. For a line that will not span any
major rivers or face other geological impediments, the main
challenge will be security, not engineering.
COMMENT
——-
9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX’s description of current operations on the
Karshi-Termez rail line is cause for concern. XXXXXXXXXXXX underlined
this by saying he himself refused to travel on the line under
current conditions. His description of wheels that are red hot by
the end of the mountain crossing implies that a train wreck is
possible in the literal sense. Given this and the importance of
the line to NDN, Post believes the Department should consider
approaching authorities in Tokyo so that the Karshi-Termez
electrification project gets top priority. We believe that Japan’s
support for the rail electrification project would contribute to
Afghan reconstruction in a way that is compatible with the new
Japanese Government’s approach (reftel).
NORLAND

Uzbekistan: US Senate Wants Pentagon to be More Transparent on NDN Contracts

Uzbekistan: US Senate Wants Pentagon to be More Transparent on NDN Contracts

Uzbekistan: US Senate Wants Pentagon to be More Transparent on NDN Contracts
Uzbekistan: US Senate Wants Pentagon to be More Transparent on NDN Contracts

by Deirdre Tynan

US legislators are willing to lift restrictions on the Defense Department’s ability to provide military assistance to Uzbekistan, a country with one of theworld’s worst human rights records. But before the floodgates of security assistance are opened for Tashkent, Capitol Hill wants the Pentagon to be more transparent in the way it manages the Northern Distribution Network.

The US Senate in particular has voiced alarm that a lack of oversight over the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) has turned it into a gravy train of graft for Uzbekistan’s ruling elite. Uzbekistan serves as a hub for the NDN, which has emerged as a key supply line for US and NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan.

The US Senate Committee on Appropriations approved a waiver September 22 that will for the first time in seven years remove restrictions prohibiting military aid to Tashkent. However, the waiver is conditioned on the Defense Department’s compliance with a requirement to provide reports on how Pentagon cash is spent on NDN contracts in Uzbekistan.

“The committee is concerned with reports of pervasive corruption in Uzbekistan and therefore expects to be informed of public and private entities that receive support, directly or indirectly, from United States Government funds used to pay the costs of Northern Distribution Network supply routes through that country,” a Senate report on foreign aid bill S. 1601 states.

“The Committee requires a report that itemizes those costs to the extent practicable to ensure that no US funds are being diverted in support of corrupt practices,” it adds. The first report will be filed six months after the bill becomes law, and annually thereafter.

The reports are expected to be classified and, therefore, unavailable for public review. The foreign aid bill for Uzbekistan is expected to come up for a vote in congress later this year.

The Pentagon is increasingly relying on the NDN to keep the Afghan war effort going. By the end of this year, US military planners aim to ship 75 percent all Afghan-bound, non-military cargo along the NDN, thus reducing US reliance on a Pakistani supply route.

With Turkmenistan refusing to get involved with any land transit aspect of NDN — despite a concerted effort to incentivize officials in Ashgabat — Uzbekistan stands to be able to make considerable capital from its strategic position and infrastructure.

Uzbekistan’s role in the NDN is pivotal with the majority of goods transiting into Afghanistan at the Termez-Hairaton rail node. Pentagon agencies have struck numerous deals with local trucking and storage subcontractors, as well as the state-owned Uzbekistan Railways. Uzbek authorities, while providing use the Navoi air hub to DoD contracted flights, will not allow onward flights from Navoi to Afghanistan, and insist that freight must be trucked to the border.

A well-placed source in Washington, DC, indicated to EurasiaNet.org that the use of subcontracted local firms on DoD contracts is an area of intense interest within some branches of the US government. Some officials worry that Uzbek political and security elites may be profiting from below-the-radar partnerships with international firms.

Another source familiar with Pentagon contracting practices in Central Asia alleges that Defense Department planners are aware that some US military contractors have cultivated relationships with companies that have been linked to friends and relatives of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
“Pentagon logistics certainly knew some contractors were using companies controlled by the Karimov family to perform aspects of their contracts in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. But it’s very clear they didn’t view this as a negative, just the opposite,” the source said.

A previous investigation by EurasiaNet.org showed that the DoD is not unaware that doing business in Uzbekistan is fraught with complications. Potential contractors have warned the Pentagon that “informal fees,” an unambiguous euphemism for bribery, along with frequent rule changes can be managed partially by “established good relations” with Uzbek authorities.

According to the US Congressional Research Service, contracts listed in the US Federal Procurement Data System as having Uzbekistan as their place of performance rose in value from $11.7 million in 2007 to $20.2 million in 2010.

Human rights activists contend that policymakers in Washington are allowing Tashkent to dictate the terms and parameters of US-Uzbek relations. A recent Wikileaks dump of diplomatic cables suggests that US diplomats in Tashkent are unwilling to challenge the Uzbek government on egregious rights violations, including the widespread and persistent use of forced child labor in the cotton sector.

“[The Committee on Appropriations] mark-up in Senate may have so far gained little attention, but the terrible message it sends to the democracy activists and the ordinary people of Uzbekistan can hardly be overstated,” said Steve Swerdlow , Uzbekistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Just days after the State Department labeled Uzbekistan a serial violator of religious freedom in its annual Religious Freedom report, and while President [Islam] Karimov continues his severe crackdown on civil society, the use of widespread torture, and forced child labor, the Congress has provided an enormous windfall to the military of one of the world’s most repressive governments,” Swedlow continued. “Given that Tashkent was already heavily benefiting from the US military presence in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should have played its cards better: insist on human rights improvements first, before lifting aid restrictions, not the other way around.”

Editor’s note:

Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based journalist specializing in central Asian affairs.