Looking Ahead: US-Central Eurasia Security Relations

Central Eurasia

On September 12, the Center for International Policy (CIP) presented the first in a series of events looking at the status of the United States’ security relationships around the world. Hosted by the Central Asia Program at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, a packed audience listened to Joshua Kucera, Erica Marat, and Abigail Poe outline some key areas in U.S.-Central Asia policy and introduce CIP’s new project, the Security Assistance Monitor.

Joshua Kucera is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in foreign affairs and international relations. He has reported from more than 30 countries, from Venezuela to Congo to China, and specializes in Central Asia and the Caucasus. During his presentation, he argued that the “outsized” importance of the Caucuses and Central Asia in Washington is coming to an end.

In the early 2000’s, the United States had developed tight connections with countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in order to win their support for the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. However, as the military continues to draw down troops and the war comes to an end, Kucera foresees a significant drop-off in the amount of military aid going to these countries.

Rent for the right to use places like the Manas Airbase in Kyrgyzstan, which has gone up significantly over the last several years, will no longer be necessary after Kyrgyzstan decided not to renew the U.S. leasing agreement for the base.  Though Kucera also noted that it is unlikely that aid to this region will decline to pre 9/11 levels saying the Pentagon does not want these states to become ungoverned spaces vulnerable to the spread of terrorism from neighboring Afghanistan.

Our second panelist, Erica Marat, is a visiting scholar at the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center. She is an expert on security issues in Central Asia, with a focus on military, national, and regional defense, as well as state-crime relations. Her presentation more closely examined the specifics of U.S. security assistance in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, specifically the impact and efficacy of funding for police reform.

Traditionally, the police in these countries have served as a punitive tool for the powerful and have served as an internal military force for their respective Interior Ministries. Indeed, Interior Ministers have often assumed the title of General.  Marat argued that even when there has been support from the international community for police reform programs, there has been minimal implementation and those that have been put in place have been largely ineffective. For instance, Marat noted that material aid, such as new crime scene investigation tools, vehicles, and other law enforcement technology, has not been sufficiently tied to democratizing programs that would effectively change the behavior of the police. Ultimately, Marat acknowledged that the reform process would be long and chaotic, but would need an ongoing dialogue between civil society and the government if attempts to demilitarize and depoliticize the police.

Abigail Poe, deputy director of CIP, also spoke at the event. She introduced Security Assistance Monitor, a new comprehensive online resource that provides information and answers your questions about the United States’ security and defense relationships around the world. When it launches in October, the site will have searchable statistics about U.S. military and police aid programs, expert analysis providing insight and highlighting security trends from around the world, the latest news and a calendar of upcoming public events, hearings, and official travel.

Those familiar with CIP’s “Just the Facts” website, which focused on Latin America, will be familiar with the positive impact on transparency and accountability this information can provide. Together with the Friends Committee on National LegislationLatin America Working Group Education Fund, Project on Middle East Democracy and Washington Office on Latin America, Security Assistance Monitor will provide the same service on a global scale, with detailed information and analysis for Central Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.