Saturday, July 30, 2005

Good Riddance

The Uzbekistan government has ordered the U.S. to leave the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan within 180 days. While the airbase has been an important hub in the U.S.'s efforts in Afghanistan, I do not think that it will seriously weaken the military's ability to root out the Taliban and other insurgents as they will be able to use bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In fact, this development makes President Bush look really good. Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov has bristled at calls from various U.S. government officials for an international investigation into the Andijan protests where at least 500 people were killed by Uzbek government troops. Karimov has also bristled at U.S. efforts to keep 439 Uzbek political refugees from being forced to returned to Uzbekistan where if they returned to Uzbekistan, they would likely be tortured and killed. These developments in Uzbekistan show that autocratic rulers like Karimov are becoming fearful of U.S. efforts to make their country more free and consequently, cutting into their power. Karimov realizes that President Bush is willing is back his rhetoric with action (though not as often as I would want, as evident in Egypt). The U.S. can't let up now on Uzbekistan and should be more than willing to withhold much of the $22 million in aid due to Uzbekistan.