Uzbekistan is trying to choose between US and Russia; who will be stronger ally in fight aganst Islamic State and for preserving status quo in Central Asia

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US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal visited Tashkent on December 1. During her visit, she met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic Abdulaziz Kamilov, the press service of the Foreign Ministry reported.

This was a regular visit of the US diplomats in the context of the bilateral consultations annually held since 2009. However, the early completion of the NATO mission in Afghanistan and the creation of a new international coalition led by the United States against the “Islamic State” (IS) have attracted particular attention of the US to the political activity in Uzbekistan and in Central Asia as a whole reported Deutsche Welle.

This meeting in Tashkent was determined by several factors. First, it precedes parliamentary and then presidential elections in the country. Second, is a factor of the developing between the US and Russia struggle for influence on Uzbekistan.

Russian analyst Andrey Serenko commented: “United States traditionally have demonstrated attention to the peculiarities of the elections in Central Asia, though this attention does not always delights Tashkent and other capitals. But Uzbekistan started to gradually attach importance to the question. The visit of Nishi Bisval happened just before Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tashkent. Islam Karimov is constantly “swinging” in to-and-fro motion between Russia and the Atlantic partners. In recent months “the pendulum” is moving back to Moscow, but the Uzbek leader will liaise with the United States for a help in maintaining the regime of personal power in the country.

In turn, Nurmukhammet Khanamov, the Turkmen opposition leader and one of the leaders of the Congress of Democratic Forces of Central Asia indicates that leaders in the region, including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, have accumulated considerable skepticism about the ability of the US to protect them from the threat of Islamism. “After 14 years of struggle to eliminate islands of Islamism in Afghanistan, NATO has failed. Also the coalition has not yet seen any notable successes fighting against the IS in Syria and Iraq. Together this does not convince Ashgabat and Tashkent, that the US will be capable of helping them to cope with the looming threat of Islamism” – says Nurmukhammet Khanamov.

According to informed source supplying Deutsche Welle, in Uzbekistan, the security forces are ready for a “hot” scenario of confrontation with Islamist groups from the outside, and it does not count on any serious military aid from Russia or from China or from other republics in the region. “We bet it is on the US soldiers because they have more of the combat experience in the region. Although diplomats from Washington, not in a hurry to give Tashkent any promises on its part, referring to the fact that US business interest in Uzbekistan is too weak” – says the source.

Based on report by Vitaliy Volkov for Deutsche Welle

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About Ahmed Islamov

I was born and raised in Uzbekistan and lived in that country for about two thirds of my life. I left the country about 14 years ago but sustained tight bonds with my family and friends living there. I know and communicate personally with hundreds of people including blue-, white- or pink-collar workers. I am naturally very attached to and concerned with everything that is going on there.
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