According to informed sources in Tashkent, against the background of active air strikes of the US on positions of the Talibs and ground attacks of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, Washington is conducting active consultations related to the governance of Afghanistan after the war.
Uzbekistan and Pakistan take part in this dialog. The US uses economic levers of influence on these countries.
According to available information, to be able to deliver strikes on Afghanistan Washington forgave a $30 billion debt to Pakistan, and planned to provide substantial aid to the country. The US does the same to Uzbekistan. On October 12, Uzbekistan and the US announced an agreement according to which Uzbekistan officially permitted America to use bases in Uzbek territory, and the US promised to take care about security of Uzbekistan and to invest big money in the country’s economy.
It was also reported that Khanabad airfield in Uzbekistan located 200 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan already became the main base of American forces in the combat operation against terrorists and the regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
At present there are over 2,000 soldiers of the American tenth mountaineer division deployed at this base. Groups of American and British Special Forces use this base as a point of departure for operations in Afghanistan.
Official Tashkent frequently denied such reports. Press Secretary of the Uzbek President Rustam Dzhumaev commented on the report of the American magazine Times stating that Uzbekistan and the US allegedly signed an agreement permitting the long-term presence of American troops and airplanes in Uzbekistan and announced that in Uzbekistan, “There are no American military units but for the maintenance personnel of the airfield provided by the US for support of humanitarian and search and rescue operations,” and the number of American personnel did not exceed a three digit figure.
Meanwhile, independent sources confirm the presence of not less than 2,000 soldiers from American Special Forces in Afghanistan. In collaboration with Uzbek Special Forces, American commandos are preparing to conduct pinpoint operations in Afghanistan and to destroy bases of terrorists near the border of Uzbekistan. Tashkent denies this information due to two reasons; first, because of secrecy, and secondly because it does not want to spoil relations with Moscow which is very discontent with the growing military relations between Uzbekistan and the US.
Konstantin Zatulin, Director of the CIS Countries Institute, says that President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan has never been oriented at Russia, “it is sufficient to recall that in the UN, Uzbekistan has always voted in solidarity with the US and Israel.” According to Zatulin, the participation of Uzbekistan in the CIS was formal with many reservations and until no decisions were made. Zatulin added that Russia frequently attempted to attract Uzbekistan to more active participation in affairs of the Commonwealth, but these attempts failed “both due to our own fault and due to the fault of Karimov.” Along with this, noted Zatulin, “probably we need not speak about the fault, but we need to speak about the choice.” “President Karimov presumed that the West has bigger guarantees for him, and this is why Uzbekistan did not change anything in its orientation, because it had pursued and pursues its policy, the goal of which is as little Russian influence as possible and as much those who are not represented in the region as possible,” emphasized Zatulin.
Meanwhile, pursuing a pro-Western policy, Uzbekistan is willing to be a leader not only in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia but also in Afghanistan. With American mediation Uzbekistan is currently bargaining with Islamabad about granting of bigger autonomy to the northern provinces of Afghanistan (especially the provinces with Uzbek population), like it was a few years ago when Rashid Dustum was an actual master of the Samangan and Balkh provinces. Pashtun leaders are averse to such a division of the country, as well as to capture of Kabul by the Northern Alliance.
Russia evidently will not like such division. Russia is against the growth of American influence in the former Soviet republics and in Afghanistan. Now Moscow is pursuing a task of reinforcement of its troops in Tajikistan and the conversion of Mujahideen units into a regular army. Hence, the nearest goal is to enable the forces of General Fahim to take as much territory of Afghanistan as possible, first of all Kabul and the northern provinces. It is possible that the Tajik aviation will support them from the air (from air the US support only the troops of Uzbek General Dustum). Kremlin experts will obviously recommend Putin to protect the idea of integrity of Afghanistan with a significant influence of Tajik lobbying in the coalition government.
The Russian President is actively preparing for the summit of Asia-Pacific economic cooperation in Shanghai to be held between October 20 and 21. It is possible that during his meetings with the US President, Chinese Chairman, and Prime Minister of Japan, Putin will propose a more open discussion of problems of the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan and the governance of Afghanistan after the war, taking into account the opinion of all interested parties.