Minister Says 48 Afghans May Have Died in Floods
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
17 June 2005 -- Afghan officials say floods in the north of the country caused by heavy rains have destroyed hundreds of homes and may have killed up to 48 people in northern Afghanistan in the past few days.
Minister for Rural Development Hanif Atmar said flash floods had hit the provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar, Sar-i-Pul, Faryab, Jozjan, Samangan and Faryab.
He said reports from the provinces indicate a total of 48 people had been killed and 14 injured, but these still had to be confirmed.
Emergency food supplies have been sent to affected families, but there is a shortage of tents.
In March, more than 200 Afghans died in floods caused by heavy rain and melting snow.
Taliban say hold 13 Afghans in troubled south
Fri Jun 17, 4:22 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The Taliban said they had captured 11 Afghan soldiers, a senior police officer and a district chief in Kandahar, just days after U.S.-led and Afghan forces staged a joint operation there against the guerrillas.
Taliban commander Mullah Rahim said the 13 were captured in a raid on Mian Nishin district in the southern region of Kandahar on Thursday.
"We have hidden them somewhere and will decide on their fate following instructions from our leadership," Rahim told Reuters, using a satellite phone belonging to the district police chief.
A senior police officer in Kandahar city confirmed that the phone belonged to the police chief and that authorities had lost touch with the 13.
Mian Nishin was the scene of joint operations by Afghan and U.S.-led forces this week in which government officials said nine guerrillas were killed.
Recent weeks have seen a surge in Taliban-linked violence in the south and east of Afghanistan, raising fears for the security of parliamentary elections due to be held on Sept. 18.
In another incident on Thursday, three guerrillas were killed while trying to ambush a government convoy in neighboring Zabul province, provincial spokesman Gulab Shah said.
A Taliban spokesman denied the report and said the Taliban had inflicted losses on the government forces in the ambush.
Kandahar has been the scene of much of the recent violence.
On Monday, four U.S. soldiers were wounded in a suicide attack outside Kandahar city, where at least 20 people lost their lives in a suicide bomb attack on a mosque on June 1.
The Taliban have threatened more violence, and both President Hamid Karzai and U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad have warned the guerrillas are likely to step up attacks ahead of the elections.
More than 150 insurgents have been killed this year, according to U.S. and government figures. Dozens of government troops and 13 U.S. soldiers from the 20,000-strong U.S-led foreign force hunting the militants have also died since March.
U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 after they refused to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the architect of Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
On Thursday, Khalilzad said he did not believe bin Laden or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were in Afghanistan. He was responding to comments by a senior Taliban commander the previous day who said bin Laden was in good health and that Omar was in direct command of Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Britain, US ask for troops to go to Kabul
By Michelle Grattan / The Age (Australia) / June 17, 2005
Australia has been sounded out informally by Britain and the United States to send troops to Afghanistan.
The Afghan ambassador, Mahmoud Saikal, yesterday also appealed for forces to be sent, after an earlier informal request from Kabul to Australia.
An Australian military mission went to Afghanistan late last year to examine the possibility of contributing to coalition forces and to review progress being made on security there.
Defence Minister Robert Hill said yesterday the Government had yet to consider whether to make a fresh commitment. He pointed out that Australian forces were already quite heavily engaged overseas, particularly with the recent extra contribution of 450 troops to Iraq.
The matter is expected to go to cabinet's national security committee within weeks.
A spokeswoman for Senator Hill indicated that suggestions for Australian contributions have been for a provisional reconstruction team, help with training the Afghan army and army engineers.
Australia was part of the original coalition in the war against Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
It pulled out in late 2002, as it prepared to support an American invasion of Iraq. Recently the only Australian military presence has been one army mine-clearing expert.
Mr Saikal said the security situation had deteriorated, especially in the south of the country.
"There is an absolute need for assistance in security. It is the call of the Afghan Government and the Afghan people and the international community."
Mr Saikal also urged Australia to set up a mission in Kabul. Opposition defence spokesman Robert McClelland said Labor would not in principle oppose Australia committing troops.
UN Repatriating Afghans From Pakistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
17 June 2005 -- The United Nations refugee agency is repatriating thousands of Afghans from a Pakistani tribal region where military forces have been battling Islamic militants.
Pakistan is closing all refugee camps in South and West Waziristan on the Afghan border, citing security concerns. An estimated 38,000 Afghans are living in the camps. Pakistan wants the camps closed by the end of this month.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Jack Redden today said that the repatriation process is running "smoothly."
Pakistan has deployed around 70,000 troops into its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, hunting for al-Qaida-linked militants in the area.
PAKISTAN: Two more refugee camps in Balochistan to close
ISLAMABAD, 17 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Following a recent decision to close 14 Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan's North Waziristan agency - part of the western tribal belt - by the end of June, Islamabad, together with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) announced on Friday the closure of two more camps in the southern Balochistan province within the next two months.
"The Jungle Pir Alizai camp in Pishin district would be closed by 31 July while the second [camp], Girdi Jungle, located in the Dalbandin area of Chagai district would be closed by the end of August, offering its residents a choice of repatriation or relocation to another camp," Jack Redden, a spokesman for UNHCR in Islamabad, said.
According to this year's census of Afghans in the country, Balochistan province has close to 800,000 Afghan refugees, of whom 155,000 were living in the northern district of Pishin, including some 64,000 in three camps. The southern district of Chagai has about 62,000 Afghans - the majority of whom live in four camps.
The Pakistani government has cited security and alleged criminal activity in the camps in recent months in justifying its decision to close down the two refugee facilities.
"Besides government concerns, the humanitarian agencies operating in these camps are also having difficulty in access and security," Redden said. Although refugees in the two camps have been informed about the decision, the schedule for extra staffing to facilitate the repatriation cases would be announced later, he added.
Some 20,000 residents of Jungle Pir Alizai camp and another 43,000 Afghans living in Girdi Jungle can avail the UNHCR's continuing voluntary repatriation assistance package or relocate to Mohammed Kheil camp near the provincial capital, Quetta.
The UN refugee agency is providing basic medical care, primary education and water and sanitation services in some 145 camps across the country, including 12 in Balochistan province, one in Punjab province and some 132 in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas.
The standard assistance package for Afghan refugees includes a travel grant of US $3 to $30 per person, depending on the distance to the destination and another $12 per person to help returnees re-establish themselves in Afghanistan.
Since 2003, the closing of Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan has been continuing in parallel with the repatriation operation that began in March 2002, which is governed by a tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 2003, UNHCR closed an unofficial camp on the border between Pakistan's southern Balochistan province and Afghanistan where some 20,000 Afghans were stranded since late 2001. However, in 2004, with more Afghans drawn home by improving conditions, more than a dozen "new" camps, were established in Pakistan's western border areas to shelter Afghans fleeing the 2001 war in Afghanistan were closed. In addition another 30,000 Afghans from restive South Waziristan tribal agency were also asked to move out in June 2004.
Under the voluntary repatriation assistance programme, the UN refugee agency has helped some 2.4 million Afghans to return to their homeland during over the past three years, which is described as the largest repatriation operation in the agency's 57 years.
G8 vows cash on Afghan drug fight
BBC News / Thursday, 16 June, 2005
"Significant" extra funds for fighting the Afghan drug trade have been pledged by the most industrialised nations, the UK home secretary has said.
Charles Clarke announced the deal after G8 justice ministers met in Sheffield.
But he admitted the British-led effort to counter drugs in Afghanistan, which produced 90% of the world's opium in 2004, had been disappointing.
Despite the toppling of the Taleban regime, last year saw a near-record opium poppy harvest in Afghanistan.
Mr Clarke said there had been "major problems", which he blamed on the need for more resources and the difficulty of ensuring money goes was channelled by an effective agency.
He said the UK would continue its work on the issue.
And he said he was confident Afghan President Hamid Karzai would be able to produce an answer alongside the G8 nations.
Mr Clarke said the new agreement covered intensifying efforts on three fronts.
"Firstly, more money - and everybody agreed that more resources were necessary," he said.
"Countries committed around the table to the principle of putting more resources in."
He refused to put a figure on the new funding but suggesting it was "significant".
Mr Clarke said the G8 would also work closely with the Afghan Government to ensure resources were shared around the country.
"Thirdly, we agreed that we needed to work more co-operatively in the region," he said.
Russia had been positive about work it could carry out on its border with Afghanistan.
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - June 17, 2005
Afghan Parliamentary Candidate Assassinated
Neo-Taliban insurgents killed Afghan parliamentary candidate Abdul Wahid in an attack in the Kandahar area on 15 June, the Afghan Islamic Press Agency reported on 16 June. "The candidate was killed by the enemies of the country," Kandahar police chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi said. Wahid was also a close friend of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mofti Latifollah Hakimi claimed responsibility for the killing. "We have killed another candidate," Hakimi said. "We have already issued a fatwa that we will kill anyone who spreads propaganda against the Islamic Emirate and describes jihad as a disorder. Abdul Wahid was doing precisely this and that is why we killed him." MR
Clash Leaves Three Neo-Taliban Dead In Afghanistan
Afghan security forces killed three suspected neo-Taliban fighters and wounded two others in an hour-long battle in southern Afghanistan, AFP reported on 16 June. The fighting occurred about 280 kilometers south of Kabul in Zabul Province, where attackers fired on a policy convoy. "Three Taliban were killed and two Taliban and one police were wounded in a one hour exchange of fire," said Gullab Shah Ali Khail, a spokesman for the Zabul governor. "The three bodies of the Taliban [members] are still lying on the spot." Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi claimed responsibility for the attack but denied reports of neo-Taliban casualties. "Taliban carried out the ambush targeting the police convoy and destroyed one of their vehicles with rocket-propelled grenade fire and killed its passengers," Hakimi said. MR
U.S.: Bin Laden, Omar Not In Afghanistan
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar are not in Afghanistan, AFP reported on 16 June. "Mullah Omar is not in Afghanistan. I do not believe that Osama is in Afghanistan," he said. Khalilzad's statement came a day after a neo-Taliban spokesman said the pair of 11 September fugitives are alive despite a manhunt by U.S.-led forces for them. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they believe bin Ladan and Omar are hiding in the mountainous border region straddling the Afghan-Pakistani border. Officials in Islamabad refused to comment on the matter on 16 June. Khalilzad is leaving Afghanistan to become the U.S. ambassador in Iraq. MR
Insurgents' Land Mines Kill Afghans
Four Afghans have died in insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan in an ongoing rise in violence throughout the country, AP reported on 16 June. Two boys were among the victims, having been killed in recent days in apparent neo-Taliban attacks in the Khost area east of Kabul. Two separate land-mine explosions were responsible for three of the latest deaths, according to local officials. The fourth victim was a teacher shot dead by apparent neo-Taliban gunmen. MR
Afghan Press Monitor
Published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting / No 91, 17 Jun 05
Russia has to officially apologize
(Anis, June 14, 2005) The last two decades, which will be recorded in history as bloody decades, undoubtedly involved intervention by the great power which resulted in the formation of groups and parties loyal to foreign powers. Politicians of the former Soviet Union, or the present-day Russia, shouldn’t have forgotten the bitter experience of the past. But we marvel that the Russian foreign minister, Mr. Ivanov, should forget history and even the events of the past three years in Afghanistan. He seems to have forgotten that with the determination of the world community, the vestiges of terrorism have been wiped out from the country and the new legal system has been introduced in Afghanistan. And for the first time in history, the people of Afghanistan have elected their leadership. The constitution has been passed and preparations have been made for the upcoming parliamentary elections. But we don’t know how Mr. Ivanov dares to utter baseless words against a country which has its own legal system, and connect it to the unrest in Andyjan, Uzbekistan, saying that those involved in the unrest crossed the Afghan-Uzbek border, whereas the whole world knows that the arrogant Taleban regime was ousted three years ago.
Anis is state-run daily published mostly in Dari
Terrorism and its grave consequences
(Cheragh, June 13, 2005) Terrorism is a hateful phenomenon in our age. It appears in different shapes, causing fear and threat among the masses everywhere. Today, defenceless people – including women and children, old and young and even sacred places – have become targets of terrorism. This word “terrorism” was included in the political dictionary when the World Trade Centre became a victim of this plague on September 11, 2001. This bestial act of terrorists forced the US and its allies to send forces to Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Asian countries and the Middle East under the title of “a war on terror”. At present, tens of warring groups, including Al-Qaeda, have been labelled as terrorist. And not only has war against them been called legal, but millions of dollars have also been put up for arrests of their leaders. These days, Afghanistan is a country caught up in wars and defence. In wars, Afghans have been killed and have sustained countless losses. Under the pretext of friendly cooperation, this country has in the past been invaded by powerful forces such as England, the Soviet Union, Pakistan – and today by the United States as well. In the past, countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and others in the Middle East have been surrendered to their enemies of yesterday. In such cases, they were transformed into terrorist bases – and soon afterwards, the world’s nations were attacked from such bases.
Cheragh is an independent daily run by the Development and Democracy Association
What now for the Taleban?
(Outlook, June 15, 2005) Thousands of troops from the US-led coalition — most of them American — are hard at work in south-eastern Afghanistan hunting followers of the hard-line Taleban movement they toppled three and half years ago. They are also after another group – the Hezb-e-Islami mujahideen faction led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar has declared similar aims to the Taleban — to fight a holy war, or jihad, against the Americans, to push them out and to topple the current fledgling administration. There is an increase in fighting with the arrival of spring, which melts the snow in the high mountains that insurgents use as their hiding places. It was the same story during the Soviet occupation in the Eighties, but US commanders had been suggesting this one would be much quieter and that they finally had the militants on the run. Instead, it has turned out to be on of the deadliest periods in the past three years. In some areas, there have been almost daily clashes with militants. At least 250 people have been killed in the past two months, but the Americans say it is the Taleban who are coming off worse.
Outlook is an independent daily published in English
Reshuffling is a positive move, as long as it is careful and far-reaching
(Erada, June 14, 2005) Based on the proposal of the interior ministry, president Karzai has carried out a major reshuffle in the police department and has replaced the governor of the north-eastern province of Takhar. Around ten provinces will have new high-ranking police officers. Reshuffling within administrative posts is part of the routine work of any government. It is necessary in order to boost capacity-building, as well as to preserve creativity in the various departments. It is a good opportunity for the public servants to serve the whole of the country during their service term Only the governor of Takhar has been replaced and there is no news about any other governors. Some of the governors do not have good reputations, and are only appointed on the basis of power and local observations. Notorious warlords who were appointed as governors still rule as kings of their provinces. They don’t care about the legitimate rights of the people. It is to be hoped that these reshufflings will not be done on the basis of personal likes or dislikes. It is also to be hoped that they will cover other areas too.
Erada is an independent daily run by the Afghan Media and Resource Centre
U.S. nice, but it's not home
By Mary Ann Fergus / The Chicago Tribune / June 17, 2005
In a vanguard California high school, Nazifa Jafary organizes her digital portfolio on a laptop, writes poetry based on class skits and calls her teachers by their first names.
Students eat, drink and break out in song during classes, and Nazifa studies it all with warm green eyes and a ready smile.
Now, none of it surprises her. Not even the girl with the house key dangling from her loop earring.
Nazifa is one of 13 girls and 26 boys from Afghanistan who have studied in U.S. high schools this year. They are the first group of foreign-exchange students from Afghanistan to come to America in more than 30 years, and their year here is coming to an end.
Nazifa's serene expression changes as she considers describing her days as a sophomore at High Tech High International to the folks back home.
"Even if I told them, they might think that is not school," Nazifa says, shaking her head and laughing. "They would think you would have gone somewhere else."
Just as her new life begins to feel normal, Nazifa prepares for home. The students, here through a U.S. State Department program called Youth Exchange and Study, are to return to Afghanistan in late June. Excited to see their families once more, they are also apprehensive about blending in again. The recent turmoil and violence surrounding treatment of the Koran and the slaying of a liberal female TV host just a few years older than they are has put the students on edge.
"Everyone was so scared in the program," says Hawa Ansary, 16, studying in Haddonfield, N.J., about the killing of the TV host, Shaima Rezayee, 24."We were e-mailing each other and asking, `What will happen to us when we go back to Afghanistan?'"
One year in America has offered blissful respite from such fears. These students grew up amid war and oppression. As young children, they huddled in bomb shelters, fled hungry and barefoot to safer regions of the country or to Pakistan, watched neighbors and loved ones fall to bullets and mortar rounds. Then came the Taliban, prohibiting girls from attending school and forcing them to wear burqas outside their homes. Even now, school in Afghanistan is generally a place where teachers lecture and students quietly take notes.
It took Nazifa two weeks before she could follow her new school's norms and call her teachers by their first name, another few weeks before she started speaking in class.
"I just saw the other kids; they're really free," Nazifa says. "At first I declined to talk, but then I thought, `No, this is not going to work. I'm in school. I have to do it.'"
For the first time in her life, Nazifa worked on class projects with both boys and girls. She learned to use a computer, then made a short movie about Afghanistan that she presented to students and parents. She trained and ran a mile. She learned to play the guitar and mastered "Let it Be."
In Afghanistan, Nazifa always wore a head covering in her city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Here, she and the other girls in the program took off their scarves. There, she had never thought of a boy as a friend. Now, she says boys are just like girls. Back home, she learned formal English. Now, nearly every thought is prefaced by, "It was like, oh, my God."
American cultural lessons continue after school when Nazifa goes home to Walter and Montse Arenz, a Mexican-American couple, and their three daughters. For the first time in her life, she enjoys her own room. Her bedroom in Afghanistan is twice as big, but she shares it with two sisters and her grandmother.
"Here I got used to being alone, doing my homework, just being myself as an American," Nazifa says.
But Nazifa and the others must leave many of those American ways behind when they return home. Students know their elders and peers will scrutinize their every movement and word to see just how much America has changed them. The change will be difficult for the 40 students, but especially the girls.
In a country where girls often don't leave the house without their father or an older brother, many families were criticized for letting their daughters study in the United States. Now these young women, determined to become doctors, engineers and diplomats, must first assure Afghan society that they are still good Muslim girls.
They will wear head coverings once more, as well as long-sleeved shirts that fall far below their hips. They will be more reserved around elders, even boys their age.
Nazifa worries that she might forget to ask her father for permission to go out of the house or that she'll accidentally greet a boy with a handshake. Already, she sprinkles English words into her phone conversations with her parents, who don't know the language.
While the program's main objective was to expose Afghan students to American ideals and education, it also built unity within the group, which represents six provinces in a nation with long-established divisions. To prepare for America, the group spent a month in Kyrgyzstan, where they bonded, regardless of gender or ethnic background, before going to places like Southern Pines, N.C., and Longview, Wash. The five Afghan students placed in or near San Diego may have kept that bond best, but all the students e-mail each other, a resource that will be more limited back home.
The students will become members of an alumni program, also sponsored by the State Department, in which they can share their experiences and work to improve their country. In August, another group of 40 Afghans, including 19 girls, will begin to study in America.
The students know that in Afghanistan, where they live in cities hours apart, it will be difficult to maintain the friendships and independence they had in the U.S. Nazifa becomes sad and quiet as she talks about saying goodbye to Arasta Saami, a girl who grew up in Kabul, seven hours away from Nazifa's home. In California, Arasta studied at San Marcos High School, which is 45 minutes from Nazifa's school. But Arasta came to San Diego each weekend to be tutored for the SATs and stayed with two American families involved with the city's exchange student program, and those families welcomed Nazifa.
Over the past year, the girls, both 17, became best friends.
They had much in common. Their families moved in and out of Pakistan during the Taliban's reign. But as the daughters of middle-class parents, they couldn't always attend school in their neighboring country. Financial problems and family ties drew both families back to Afghanistan, where the girls studied secretly at home. Arasta says she ventured outside in a burqa just once or twice in a two-year span.
"It was like being in a prison," she says. "It seems like your hands are tied."
Arasta's family returned to Pakistan and struggled to pay her school tuition and, later, to cover the cost of group English classes. Nearly 2,000 Afghan teens took exams testing their English proficiency to qualify for the exchange program.
The 40 students chosen then wrote letters to prospective host parents. Omid Azizi, 16, now studying in Downers Grove, began his: "Greet for you that pour like a waterfall from the highest points of my heart ..."
Arasta's eyes tear up as she describes learning she was chosen for the program. "It was the happiest day of my life," she says.
To help ease concerns of parents, many of the students were placed with Afghan-American families in the United States, who watched them carefully. Even with American families, students were often reserved.
Arasta, a senior, took Nazifa to her high school prom, but the girls were too embarrassed to dance because they saw only couples on the floor.
Arasta heard stories in her high school about students using drugs and drinking, though neither she nor Nazifa was exposed to such behavior.
Arasta wants to become a doctor or diplomat. She earned straight-A's this year and has applied for two college scholarships in America, but she's also prepared to attend college in Afghanistan. Nazifa, inspired by the collaborative teaching at High Tech High International, wants to become a teacher to help women.
"We are the same," she says. "A woman can do whatever she wants. She should have the same opportunities, equal rights."
But she will have to be patient.
"I spent 16 years of my life there," Arasta says. "I have grown up there, so this one year here won't be a big change for me. When I go back to Afghanistan, I want to be more independent, and I will be, but it takes time."
Under clear blue skies, Arasta walks into a football stadium with more than 500 other students graduating from San Marcos High School on a Wednesday in early June. Several times before the ceremony, she says softly that she wishes her mother could see her. High in the bleachers, friends, including host mother Latifa Sakha, an Afghan immigrant, and Nazifa, cry as they watch Arasta bid high school, and in many ways, America, goodbye.
"It's going to be hard," Nazifa says about the transition home. "But it's not like a choice. That's our country. We can't be away from it. It is ours."
Uzbekistan restricts U.S. flights over its territory in response to White House's embargo threats
RIA Novosti - Russia
Moscow, June 16 (RIA Novosti, Pyotr Goncharov) - Authorities in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan have banned nighttime flights of U.S. military planes from the Khanabad airbase. The decision comes in response to unequivocal hints from Washington (notably from the U.S. State Department), as well as from the EU headquarters in Brussels, that if it does not give its consent to an international inquiry into the Andizhan events, the Islam Karimov government will have to face an economic embargo and other sanctions.
The U.S. will now have to relocate its planes from Uzbekistan to the military airfield at Bagram, in Afghanistan, and to the Manasa airbase, in Kyrgyzstan.
It seems like the U.S.-Uzbek alliance, built as part of Washington's counter-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan, has been put on hold indefinitely. The conflict is obviously a political one. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice's recent warning about possible measures to further isolate Uzbekistan from the global community must have been taken by the Karimov government with all due seriousness. Apparently, her reference to last year's decision by the U.S. Administration to cut off the payment of an $11 million bonus to its former Central Asian ally hasn't passed unnoticed, either.
The European Union has taken an even tougher line. Jean Asselborn, Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, the country currently holding the rotating EU presidency, made it clear the other day that sanctions against Uzbekistan were imminent.
The Human Rights Watch has been particularly proactive in pressing for an independent inquiry into the Uzbek authorities' handling of recent protests in Andizhan. It, too, wants Uzbekistan's incumbent government to be punished with sanctions.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly has also had its say on the matter. It has called on all of the alliance's member states to suspend assistance for Uzbekistan's armed forces.
The decision to relocate the U.S. military aircraft to the neighboring Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan was being made amid a sharp controversy between the Pentagon and the State Department-something the Bush Administration tries to play down.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials want the Khanabad base retained, and are therefore against bringing pressure to bear on the Uzbek government in connection with the Andizhan events. They are perfectly aware of that base's strategic importance, especially for the U.S.-led counter-terrorism operation in Afghanistan. It will be remembered that Uzbekistan was the first Central Asian country to have offered its airfields to the U.S. Air Force when the operation began.
The international community's current pressure on Tashkent is something of a blackmail, and the Karimov government has been aware all along that even if it accepted their terms, it would find itself in isolation anyway. Washington has repeatedly made it clear that Coalition aircraft could be relocated to Afghan airfields, if necessary.
How long will the U.S.-Uzbek alliance be on hold? And what kind of tactics is President Karimov going to opt for now?
The Uzbek leadership will have no difficulty securing the support of regional allies. Authorities in China, Kazakhstan and Russia have already assured the Karimov government of their unconditional backing.
As for the U.S.' persistent efforts to spread democracy throughout the region by provoking further revolutionary upheavals, they may eventually lead to the alienation of Central Asian nations. But will then China, Kazakhstan, and Russia be able to help these nations stay afloat?
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