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American Forces Press Service

Myers Meets With Strategic Central Asian Ally

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, Aug. 12, 2004 - Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers met with Uzbek leaders today to cement relations with "an important strategic partner" of America.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, Defense Minister Kodir Gulamov and the Uzbek Chief of Staff Gen. Ismail Ergashev in a series of meetings.

Uzbekistan's location in the middle of Central Asia, its large population and its military capabilities make it an important ally in the war on terror, Defense Department officials said. Very soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Uzbekistan offered the U.S. military use of its airspace and the use of the base at Kharsi-Kanabad in the southern part of the country.

Myers said Uzbekistan's cooperation helped make Operation Enduring Freedom in neighboring Afghanistan a success.

But there are problems in the relationship. Recently, the State Department issued a finding that Uzbekistan was not making significant progress toward democracy and had human rights problems. "That has led to the inability to provide (International Military Education and Training) funds and foreign military financing," Myers said.

He said denying these funds - which, in Uzbekistan's case, amount to around $18 million - is a tactic often used to show U.S. displeasure with some part of the relationship. "My own view is that is very shortsighted, and it's never productive," he said. "In fact, it can often have the opposite effect that people intend, because you lose any ability to influence at all, at least through a military standpoint."

Myers gave as an example the loss of influence the United States military has with the Indonesian military. "When I was in the Pacific in 1997, we had a very close relationship with the military leadership in Indonesia," he said. "Because of similar circumstances (to those surrounding Uzbekistan), we now have virtually no relationship.

"We don't know the next generation of officers," he continued. "They've not been to the United States to be trained. They haven't seen the values of the United States. They missed all that. This cannot be good for stability either in that part of the world - Indonesia - or here."

While there are genuine concerns, he said, they must be weighed against all aspects of the relationship. "In my view, we shouldn't let any single issue drive a relationship with any single country," he said. "It doesn't seem to be good policy to me."

Myers said he spoke with his allies about a wide range of issues, including progress in neighboring Afghanistan, a small bit about Iraq, and particularly how to improve the military-to-military relationship between the two countries.

The chairman also toured a new modeling and simulation center the Uzbeks have built in a reconditioned factory building. "The thought that they put their money into this shows that they are serious about changing the mindset of the leadership and being ready to address the 21st century threat of terrorism and drugs and so on," he said.

The chairman arrived in Uzbekistan after visiting Afghanistan with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Aug. 11.


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