Rights groups rally to oppose U.S. aid to Uzbekistan

The Washington Post reports:

Human rights groups are lining up to pressure Congress not to authorize the provision of U.S. military aid to the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, even though such assistance could prove crucial to getting supplies into and out of Afghanistan.

With the Obama administration weighing whether to request a waiver that would allow military aid to Uzbekistan for the first time since 2005, the groups recently sent a letter to members of the Senate pleading with them to oppose any such move, saying, “Uzbekistan’s status as a strategic partner to the United States should not be allowed to eclipse concerns about its appalling human rights record.”

The issue of military aid to Uzbekistan is a complicated one, but goes to the heart of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has been prohibited from receiving military aid since government security forces there massacred demonstrators six years ago, and the authoritarian state has carried out a host of human rights abuses since that time.

For Washington, however, the government of Islam Karimov matters more now than perhaps at any other time in the history of their relationship.

U.S. military officials remain leery that Pakistan, a sometimes fickle ally, could cut off its supply routes to American troops in Afghanistan — as it has done for limited stretches in the past. And if that happens, Uzbekistan becomes the best transhipment point into the war zone.

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