U.S. SECURITY INTERESTS IN CENTRAL ASIA REASSESSED
Almost three years since 9/11 and the October 2001 war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military presence in Central Asia shows no signs of diminishing. To the contrary, the U.S. military has been consolidating existing forward basing in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and maintaining its contingency access to the Almaty and Dushanbe airports. Support for continuing operations in Afghanistan and anti-terrorism have been the driving forces for the strengthening of American security cooperation with Central Asia. This monograph will 1) explore the military rationale for U.S. security interests in Central Asia; 2) examine the impact of the Iraq war on the sustainability of U.S. forward basing in Central Asia; 3) evaluate the broader consequences for U.S. foreign policy of an American military presence in Central Asia; and 4) assess the implications for the U.S. Army.
The U.S.-led war in Iraq has introduced new complications into security cooperation between the United States and Central Asia and revealed inconsistencies in the U.S. approach to regional security. The increased U.S. security focus on Central Asia has led other regional powers—especially Russia, China, and India—to compete for influence in the region more overtly, and a continued American military presence is likely to create tensions in Russian- American relations in particular. Concerned about the implications of the U.S. interest in “regime change” for their own rule, Central Asian leaders now have an added incentive to overstate terrorist threats facing their countries, while justifying the persecution of any political opposition and peaceful religious activity.
Moreover, by highlighting anti-terrorism in U.S. security cooperation with Central Asia, the United States addresses a symptom, rather than the causes of regional security, and is pursuing a counterproductive strategy, contributing to the radicalization of political opposition movements and discrediting both democratization and the U.S. commitment to it. Instead, the United States should do more to address the underlying human security problems in Central Asia, which increase its vulnerability to terrorist movements. To this end, the U.S. Army should contribute