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Congressional Research Service, "Central Asia's Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests", February 25, 2009

The current situation in Central Asia with regard to security
February 25, 2009

The Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) face common security challenges from crime, corruption, terrorism, and faltering commitments to economic and democratic reforms. However, cooperation among them remains halting, so security in the region is likely in the near term to vary by country. Kyrgyzstans and Tajikistans futures are most clouded by ethnic and territorial tensions, and corruption in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan could spoil benefits from the development of their ample energy resources. Authoritarianism and poverty in Uzbekistan could contribute to a succession crisis. On the other hand, Kyrgyzstans growing but still fragile civil society might help the relatively small nation safeguard its independence. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan might become regional powers able to champion policy solutions to common Central Asian problems and to resist undue influence from more powerful outside powers, because of their large territories and populations and energy and other resources. Internal political developments in several bordering or close-by states may have a large impact on Central Asian security. These developments include a more authoritarian and globalist Russia, an economically growing China, instability in Iran and the South Caucasus region, and re-surging drug production and Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the former Bush Administration established bases and other military access in the region to support U.S.-led coalition operations in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has highlighted U.S. interests in such continued access as well as the long-term security and stability of the region. U.S. interests in Central Asia include fostering democratization, human rights, free markets, and trade; assisting the development of oil and other resources; and combating terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and drug production and trafficking. The United States seeks to thwart dangers posed to its security by the illicit transfer of strategic missile, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons technologies, materials, and expertise to terrorist states or groups, and to address threats posed to regional independence by Iran. Some critics counter that the United States has historically had few interests in this region, and advocate only limited U.S. contacts undertaken with Turkey and other friends and allies to ensure U.S. goals. They also urge these friends and allies to enhance their energy security by taking the lead in the development of diverse export routes for Central Asias energy resources. Most in Congress have supported U.S. assistance to bolster independence and reforms in Central Asia. The 106th Congress authorized a Silk Road initiative for greater policy attention and aid for democratization, market reforms, humanitarian needs, conflict resolution, transport infrastructure (including energy pipelines), and border controls. The 108th and subsequent Congresses have imposed conditions on foreign assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, based on their human rights records. Congress has continued to debate the balance between U.S. security interests in the region and interests in democratization and the protection of human rights.

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