Group Lacks Seat for U.S. 10 Presidents to Map Security for Central Asia
Byline: Joshua Kucera, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - When the presidents of 10 countries gather today to map out their strategy for the security of Central Asia, there will be one major player conspicuously missing: the United States.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is holding its annual summit here, just a few miles from the Manas Air Base that the United States uses to support its operations in Afghanistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the presidents of the five post-Soviet Central Asian states and Mongolia all will be in attendance, as will senior officials from India and Pakistan.
But no American officials will be taking part in the summit, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek said.
The group, which was founded in 2001, includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia are observers.
It has yet to truly form a cohesive identity, and thus far has taken on the character of part security alliance, part economic cooperation organization.
Nevertheless, the high-profile guest list and intense media interest - there are 500 accredited reporters covering the summit - attest to its increasing clout in a region fiercely contested for political influence and for its substantial reserves of oil and gas.
Although most of the countries in the SCO have friendly relations with the United States, the group is dominated by China and Russia. It is generally viewed in the west as a mechanism by which China and Russia can counter U. …