Due to the exigencies of supplying troops in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has been seeking a waiver to remove seven years of human rights restrictions barring military aid to the Uzbek dictatorship.
Yet despite these concerns, word comes today from a Senate source saying that Congress has indeed authorized the waiver, to the chagrin of many human rights activists.
The groundwork was being laid long before; this summer, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-NC), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, visited Uzbekistan to discuss the waiver, among other aspects of improving Uzbek-US relations.
A meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Uzbek Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev was anticipated this week, as the Uzbek delegation arrived in New York for the UN General Assembly. Yet the meeting didn’t take place, possibly due to Uzbekistan’s unhappiness about being named once again in the annual report on international religious freedom as a “country of particular concern” for its appalling torture and imprisonment of devout Muslims and other religious believers.
The US was keeping mum on the subject of the waiver as The Bug Pit noticed last week, and press coverage seemed to be scarce.
Now the US move for rapprochement with Uzbekistan — despite its failure to improve its human rights record — is getting some more attention. Salon has the story:
Prompted by the the current crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations, the Obama administration has reportedly shifted supply lines to rely even more on the Central Asian corridor. And in an effort to improve relations with Uzbekistan, it is now asking Congress to OK military aid to that country, over the furious objections of human rights groups. Several groups signed a strongly worded letter to senators this week, asking that they turn down the administration’s requests for aid.
And the Washington Times also covered it, with an interview with Andrew Strohlein of the International Crisis Group:
“The country lost a lot of talented and well-educated people over the years,” Mr. Stroehlein said. “It’s really [jumping] from one state of misery to a worse state of misery with a couple of massacres in between. It’s really depressing.”