Common interests of Uzbekistan and US in Afghanistan
The new era of the strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and the United State has begun. This was stated by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells on the results of the Uzbek-American political consultations in Tashkent on February 26-27th. The next round will be held in 2020 in Washington. Alice Wells reported that Washington has increased funding for Tashkent from $ 10.1 m in 2016 to $ 28.1 m in the 2018 fiscal year. “The increase of aid shows Washington’s commitment to strengthening partnerships and supporting the reform program in Uzbekistan,” the American diplomat said. “Uzbekistan has become known to the whole world after the country began reforms in the economic and management spheres. The new opportunities have developed for cooperation with neighboring countries, as well as with the rest of the world. Central Asia benefits from the fact that Uzbekistan plays its legitimate role on the world stage. The United States supports and encourages the revival of Uzbekistan.”
Wells added that the United States pays tribute to Uzbekistan’s "neighbors first and foremost" policy, which benefits all Central Asian countries. "With the opening of borders and the settlement of old disputes, interaction in many areas has increased, which has led to the establishment of the new ties and strengthening of stability in the entire region, including in Afghanistan," the diplomat said.
Alice Wells also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the involvement of Uzbekistan in the regional trade and economic cooperation with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, to whom she conveyed greetings from US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
The reason for the increased US attention to Uzbekistan is that Washington and Tashkent have reached an agreement in joint actions on the peace process in Afghanistan. At the talks in Washington during the state visit of Mirziyoyev to the USA in May 2018, an impetus was given to the development of bilateral relations. The US side achieved Tashkent’s consent to play the role of mediator in the Afghan settlement. At the same time, the distribution of tasks is as follows - the American side is working with the Taliban (the movement is prohibited in the Russian Federation) at the negotiations in Qatar, Tashkent is assigned a no less complicated role - to incline official Kabul to dialogue with the Taliban. In response, Mirziyoyev was recognized as one of the promising political leaders in the region, endorsing reforms in Uzbekistan.
As the Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan, Ismatilla Irgashev, told Vestnik Kavkazka, "Tashkent held a number of important talks with the Afghan leadership and with representatives of other leading political forces in Afghanistan, including the Taliban movement. All of Uzbekistan’s actions are aimed at promoting the peace process in this country, they are strictly conformed and coordinated with official Kabul. At the same time, Tashkent proceeds from the key principle of the Afghan settlement - this is Afghans’ problem that should be solved by themselves. " According to Irgashev, Uzbekistan has managed to achieve the goodwill of all political forces, including the Taliban due to this approach. "Along with the political efforts, Tashkent is investing in the economic future, social stability and the younger generation of Afghans," the diplomat said.
In particular, Uzbekistan is one of the few countries that, together with the Afghan side and international financial institutions, is implementing the major infrastructure projects, such as the Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat railway and the new Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar project, which will provide access to the seaports - Chabahar and Bandar Abbas in Iran, and Gwadar in Pakistan. Not only Afghanistan but the countries of South Asia — India and Pakistan — are showing great interest in this project. “The implementation of these projects will help to change the approaches of some countries in the region to resolving the Afghan conflict,” Irgashev said. According to the diplomat, the ministerial meeting on the economic assistance to Afghanistan will be held in the second half of this year, and it will have a significant impact in restoring the national economy in the country.
The second sphere of shared interests of the USA and Uzbekistan is military-technical one. The US is seeking to increase the supply of military products to Central Asia. Recently, the head of the United States Central Command, Joseph Votel, said that Uzbekistan expressed interest in diversifying its military equipment and announced its intention to acquire American weapons, systems and equipment. According to the officer, this fact is a unique opportunity to replace Russia as the main supplier of the military-industrial complex products in this republic. However, the nomenclature of this cooperation is rather limited. The Russian military-industrial complex will remain the core of the armed forces of Uzbekistan in terms of aviation and heavy weapons in the coming years. Nevertheless, Americans believe they have got work to do in this sphere.