Central Asia Set to Receive U.S. Military Equipment from Afghanistan
U.S. and NATO forces are to leave Afghanistan by 2014. After the withdrawal, some U.S. military equipment might remain in various Central Asian states. The U.S. Department of Defense is currently negotiating this issue with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan behind closed doors.
If implemented, this plan would allow Washington to expand its military cooperation with Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) member countries. A Russian diplomat said, on condition of anonymity, that Moscow considers this scenario to be “absolutely unacceptable.”
The paper’s well-informed sources close to the defense ministries of the Central Asian republics say the Pentagon wants to transfer military equipment and weapons systems, now being used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan after 2014. The republics will receive some of the equipment, including armored vehicles, tank transporters, prime movers, tank trucks, special-purpose graders, bulldozers and water trucks, free of charge. Some of this equipment will be stored at local installations. In addition, the Pentagon plans to provide Afghanistan’s neighbors with medical equipment, communications systems, fire extinguishing equipment and even mobile gyms and other household facilities.
The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry’s officials said talks with the Pentagon were in progress. A source noted that the issue was first raised during U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s March 13 visit to Bishkek. At that time, Pentagon representatives met with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Talaibek Omuraliyev and suggested providing the Kyrgyz army with U.S. military equipment after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
ISAF forces in Afghanistan currently use thousands of armored personnel carriers, Humvee SUVs, other armored SUVs and auxiliary equipment. Pentagon analysts believe that it would be inappropriate to ship most of this equipment home or to leave it in Afghanistan. Washington fears that the equipment would fall into the hands of the Taliban assuming a Taliban victory. For its part, Pakistan has increased transit rates 20-fold, from $250 to $5,000 per container. Moreover, the United States believes that the military equipment might have to be used in Afghanistan, Central Asia or Pakistan later on.
Afghan security forces will need only part of the U.S. equipment. Central Asian defense ministries, which receive modest funding, might take advantage of this fact. And Washington might obtain more favorable freight transit and military deployment terms, while bargaining with Afghanistan’s neighbors.
A Russian diplomat said this scenario ran counter to specific agreements with Moscow’s Central Asian partners and other agreements within the CSTO framework.
A sizable U.S. presence might emerge on the Central Asian arms market, which primarily receives Soviet and Russian-made equipment. Moscow’s partners might eventually get used to having U.S. equipment.
It appears that CSTO members have every right to independently negotiate U.S. military equipment deliveries, all the more so as Moscow has recently turned Ulyanovsk into a transshipment center for NATO consignments being withdrawn from Afghanistan, without coordinating the decision with the CSTO.
Opposition Comes Together in Support of Detained May 6 Rioters
Earlier this week, the Basmanny Court sentenced another five people suspected of being involved in the May 6 clashes with the police in Moscow to two months in jail. The overall number of suspects is still 13. It is becoming clear that opposing the arrests is emerging as a potential factor that may unite the numerous disparate opposition groups.
Anarchist Marina Popova of Autonomous Action went on record as saying that consultations were underway on setting up a joint committee to provide support to the detainees. She said that all opposition groups are coming to the conclusion that the only way to help their members is to take joint action.
Alexander Averin from The Other Russia said he gave his wholehearted support to the efforts being undertaken by different movements in the fight against the reprisals. The Other Russia would gladly join the project, he added.
Sergei Davidis from Solidarity said that the problem was much more serious. The number of detainees may increase still further, he believes, because the Investigative Committee’s team of investigators (estimated at between 100 and 160) have been instructed to jail two persons each.
Opposition activists claim that the campaign in support of the 13 detainees will not be stopped even if the investigation succeeds in producing enough incriminating evidence. Last week many protesters criticized the “media opposition leaders” for their lack of a coherent stance on the matter. But searches conducted in their apartments before the second March of Millions put paid to this contradiction.
Ilya Yashin from Solidarity, who had his PC, money and documents confiscated by the search team, said that “lawlessness will become the norm if we keep silent about it and fail to draw attention to it.”
Activists gave different deadlines for the start of the new campaign, ranging from next week to early July. But Sergei Udaltsov left others behind by announcing that a rally would be held before the Investigative Committee as early as this Saturday.
Russian Opposition Fights Uphill Battle: Life Through the Eyes of a Housewife
Anytime I need to describe Russia’s political situation, I imagine a solitary hill amid a vast expanse. Its summit is tightly besieged by a small but united group, well-fed and tended, as is evidenced by their beautiful complexions. They are the government.
A different crowd is swarming at the foot of the hill. Transparent and ephemeral, sparkling in every color like tropical butterflies, they are busily trying to get up the hill. They are the opposition.
The third bunch is people who don’t give a damn. They are grayish-green and identical, and spread about the area around the hill. They look uncannily like a swamp, very still and quiet, when looked at from the top of the hill. From time to time, a sleepy eye opens: “Erm…What? Where to?”
It is at the foot of the hill that the political situation is actually unfolding. The government is busy pushing the opposition back into the swamp from where it should have never emerged. It is trying various techniques, such as kicking at the opposition, bribing, cursing and issuing threats. But the opposition keeps swarming.
“Stop rocking our boat,” the government warns.
It sounds like they have a boat up there on the hill which I imagine looks like Abramovich’s yacht – eight decks, a radar, guns, gun ports, torpedoes, secret chambers and frogmen.
“We have stability,” the government reassures them, pointing to the marsh. It really is stable. “You say life is bad. Hey Arkady, is your life bad?”
Arkady lives at the top of the hill and his life is good. But the opposition takes no notice of him. In fact they can’t hear anyone because of their incessant buzzing: give us free elections, go away, this hill is ours…
The government has been wracking its brains for ways of keeping them busy so they’ll stop buzzing. Give them public councils and public chambers, and public TV into the bargain – happy now? No? Well, try playing badminton. Will you show them, Dmitry? They probably don’t know about badminton.
It’s best watching the haggling from the swamp. It’s safest too – stick your head out an inch and you get whacked.
The opposition does not seem too scared – at least not enough to shut up and lie low in the marsh. It keeps swarming, and buzzing, and struggling up the hill. But it will never take the summit.
It is unable to form ranks, elect a leader or plan an offensive. It has no political force. It is little more than a mob, while the government is a structured system. A mob is no match for a system.
With time, a more or less homogenous group might emerge, gain force and finally seize the hill. But it is more likely that the hill will eventually collapse into the swamp, which will surge and pour out and reemerge as a multitude of new landscapes. I’d better choose one while there’s still time.
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