Just Say No: Uzbekistan Says Deployment of US Troops on Its Soil Illegal Under Constitution
18:49 GMT 14.10.2021 (Updated: 18:56 GMT 14.10.2021)
© AP Photo / Bagila BukharbaevaU.S. Army soldier walks past a Humvee vehicle at the Karshi-Khanabad air base, Uzbekistan, in this Tuesday, May 28, 2002
© AP Photo / Bagila Bukharbaeva
The United States has spent nearly five months negotiating with Afghanistan’s neighbours for basing rights, seeking facilities from which to carry out reconnaissance and strike missions following President Joe Biden’s April announcement on the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.
Uzbekistan will not allow US to deploy forces on its soil, Ministry of Defence spokesman Dakhrom Zulfikarov has said.
“According to my information, Uzbekistan has not received an offer to deploy US counterterrorism forces on its territory, and has no plans to take such steps, since this is prohibited by our constitution and not in line with our country’s defense doctrine,” Zulfikarov said, speaking to Russian media on Thursday.
The spokesman’s comments follow a report by Politico on Wednesday citing unnamed administration and military officials that Uzbekistan was “quietly mounting an aggressive outreach campaign to US officials” to try to facilitate security cooperation, including the deployment of US “over the horizon” counterterrorism forces in the Central Asian nation for missions in Afghanistan.
The Politico report said that Pentagon officials planned to visit Uzbekistan later this month for talks. However, Zulfikarov said the Uzbek side had not been provided with any official information to that effect.
Uzbekistan maintains a policy of neutrality, and does not allow foreign forces to be permanently stationed in the country. The country’s military engaged in drills with Russian forces ordinarily stationed in neighbouring Tajikistan this summer amid the deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan, which culminated in the fall of Kabul and the disintegration of the Afghan government in mid-August.
US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman visited Tashkent in early October, but no announcements on the possible deployment of US troops in Uzbekistan were made. Last week, Sadyk Safayev, the deputy chairman of the Central Asian nation’s senate, told Sputnik that Uzbekistan refuses to discuss US basing rights in principle, since the nation’s legislation “does not allow it.”
Also last week, Yuri Kokov, the deputy chief of Russia’s Security Council, reported that the US had not given up on its geopolitical aspirations in West Asia in the aftermath of the Afghanistan disaster, and said Washington continues to try to shore up its position in countries in the region under the pretext of “fighting terrorism.”
“Under the pretext of countering terrorist groups, they are seeking to gain a foothold in countries neighbouring Afghanistan, and to create bases there for their unmanned aerial vehicles and training centers for the training of local military personnel, law enforcement and special services. In essence, this means bringing NATO infrastructure even closer to Russia’s borders,” Kokov said.
6 October 2021, 14:04 GMT
In testimony to lawmakers late last month, senior US military officials reportedly indicated that they were in talks with Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on the possible deployment of US forces in Central Asia.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said such a deployment “would definitely not be in the interests of Russia,” and warned that Moscow does not see “how any form of US military presence in Central Asia might enhance the security of the countries involved and/or of their neighbours.”
The US has history with Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries when it comes to the deployment of troops and military infrastructure. Washington briefly stationed forces in Tajikistan in 2001, and deployed troops in Uzbekistan between 2001 and 2005. From 2001 until 2014, the US also had a major military hub in Kyrgyzstan which it used to shuttle troops, equipment and supplies into and out of Afghanistan. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan unceremoniously kicked US troops out their countries and closed down the bases after accusing Washington of meddling in their domestic affairs.