Monday, December 2, 2013

Drawing Conclusions

           Three conclusions can be drawn from the available information concerning Uzbekistan’s approach to border security: (i) Uzbekistan receives substantial financial, material and logistical support for its national security programs from a diverse party of benefactors, (ii) Uzbekistan selectively seeks to bolster its national security apparatus through multiple multilateral and bilateral partnerships, and (iii) Uzbekistan, despite some measured success in combating transnational terrorist and narcotics trafficking activity, still struggles to effectively prevent and prosecute trafficking in human beings.  Recognizing these trends, where in this equation is the United States currently factoring, and what should be considered as we move into the future?
            As has been noted, Uzbekistan receives a considerable amount of support from a multitude of state and international organizations for its national security apparatus.  The UNODC has contributed a substantial amount of resources and organizational effort, especially with the establishment of the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center (CARICC).  Even Uzbekistan’s northern neighbor of Kazakhstan contributed over $8 million [1] to the establishment of CARICC’s infrastructure and operations, while Uzbekistan is not recorded to have donated anything.  In addition to the UNODC's efforts in Central Asia, the OSCE has contributed to Uzbekistan's new biometric passport system and human trafficking prevention training.
            Although there was much speculation on Uzbekistan’s suspension of activities with the Russian-backed Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Uzbekistan is pursuing bilateral arrangements with Russia which include arms sales through 2020 [2].  While it should be noted that Mr. Karimov signed the deal in a pledge to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that there would be no future US bases allowed on Uzbek territory, there is no guarantee that Uzbekistan will apply these parameters to its national security policy.  Even if Karimov’s administration does maintain the agreement to not allow any US bases in Uzbekistan, it could still appeal to the United States and other benefactors for other forms of support.
            Indeed, that seems to be the latest trend.  In 2013, Karimov appealed to Washington for military armaments, insisting he preferred them over the date Soviet stockpiles [3].  It’s fair to say that Mr. Karimov will pursue similar requests.  In fact, he is already requesting used equipment from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) prepares for its 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan [4].
            Uzbekistan is also seeking stronger partnerships and benefits from its relationship with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and its Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).  Uzbekistan is still committed to fighting the “3 evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, and is pursuing further military and logistical collaborations with the SCO RATS [5].  SCO members also recognize a mutual intra-organizational treaty on extradition, which expedites the transfer of suspected criminals between member states.  It’s safe to say that Uzbekistan is collaborating extensively with the SCO RATS, and plans to continue to increase this level of collaboration. 
            Despite all of this overlap in military and law-enforcement donations from numerous international partners, Uzbekistan’s performance in prosecuting and preventing human trafficking is still suspect and at low levels [6].  Recognizing the duplicity in law-enforcement and military support and the opacity in Uzbekistan’s reports on human trafficking, the United States should consider reducing its military and technical contributions to Mr. Karimov’s regime. The OSCE, which aims to increase civil democratic reforms throughout Europe and now Eurasia, should work with the United States to change the Western focus of foreign policy in Central Asia from technical projects and military assistance towards the direction of funding and protecting groups dedicated to improving civil democratic society.  This, in turn, would cause a push for transparency in reporting the results of law enforcement operations, thus providing an uncensored assessment of the performance of Uzbekistan’s national security apparatus.

11.       Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center
22.       Arkadiy Dubnov, RIA NOVOSTI, Dec. 19, 2012.                                                         
33.       Regnum Informatsionnoye Agentstvo, Mar. 04, 2013.
44.       RP Defense, Mar. 24, 2013.
55.       Samarkhan Kurmat, Kazinform, Feb. 04, 2011. 
66.       US Trafficking in Persons Report 2013

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