The New York Times
July 13, 2005 Wednesday
Correction Appended
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 2; Foreign Desk; Pg. 12
LENGTH: 1268 words
HEADLINE: Crackdown in Uzbekistan Reopens Longstanding Debate on U.S. Military
BYLINE: By THOM SHANKER and C.J. CHIVERS; Thom Shanker reported from Washington
for this article, and C.J. Chivers from Moscow and from Garmisch-Partenkirchen,
The street demonstrations that helped depose the corrupt leadership in
post-Soviet Georgia were at a tipping point in 2003 when that country's military
commanders decided to sit out the crisis, allowing a bloodless change of power
that became known as the Rose Revolution.
Back at the Pentagon, where American officers had nurtured ties with
Georgian Defense Ministry officials, the restraint was seen as proving the value
of the billions of dollars allocated each year to foster military-to-military
relationships around the globe -- even with governments that were democratic in
name only.
That view marks one side of the debate about the values and dangers of the
United States policy of direct aid to foreign military forces and law
enforcement and intelligence agencies. Such aid was a point of contention
throughout the cold war in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The debate has been renewed since ministries in Uzbekistan that received
American aid were involved in a lethal crackdown on a prison break and
demonstration in mid-May. Supporters of the aid contend that the long-term
benefits outweigh the risks, as seen in the moderation shown by troops during
the Georgian revolution.
''We did some training with their military before the Rose Revolution, and
when it came down to the day of the parliamentary elections and the
demonstrations, the military said, 'We're not going to put the people down,'''
Lt. Gen. Walter L. Sharp, director of strategic plans and policy for the
American military's joint staff, said in an interview.
''It was a key factor that the military understood what their role was,'' he
The leading Georgian opposition figure, Giorgi Baramidze, shared that view.
''We believed that the troops that had American training would not turn against
the people,'' said Mr. Baramidze, who is now the Georgian government's minister
in charge of integration with the West. ''It was kind of a great assurance.''
But critics of such aid point to Uzbekistan as a prime example of what can
go wrong.
The American military has access to an air base in Uzbekistan supporting its
operations in Afghanistan and has embraced Uzbekistan as a partner in fighting
Islamist terrorist groups. Critics say this has emboldened a dictatorial
government in which torture and repression are routine and freedom of worship,
assembly and speech are restricted.
Survivors have described the violence by Uzbek Interior Ministry forces and
other units in May as excessive and indiscriminate. The events, which occurred
in the northeastern city of Andijon, have prompted Congressional reassessment of
military equipment transfers, joint training programs and other aid.
The reassessment has forced the Bush administration to examine its
complicated balancing act between two prized policy goals: democratization and
''It is a delicate balance that we walk every day and that the State
Department walks every day,'' General Sharp said. ''We get the obvious benefit
of having forces, troops, that are capable of fighting in the war on terrorism.
But we don't want to enable the leadership of a country to be able to put down
demonstrations in ways that we don't think are the right ways to do that.''
Congress appropriated $4.6 billion for global military assistance in the
last fiscal year, a figure that is almost one-quarter of all American foreign
The Pentagon's contribution is not alone. The United States also underwrites
security, law enforcement and intelligence assistance programs run by the State
and Justice Departments, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Central
Intelligence Agency.
Human rights groups, several members of Congress and many survivors of the
crackdown in Uzbekistan have called for the United States to withdraw from its
base there and cut its security support for the government, although the calls
have not been uniform.
Muhammad Salih, the leader in exile of the Erk, or Freedom, Party of
Uzbekistan and a bitter critic of the Uzbek government, told a Congressional
hearing in late June that he would favor a solution that could put pressure on
the government without having America's presence reduced. He said the presence
had ''made a positive psychological effect on Uzbekistan'' and provided a
potential balance against Chinese interests in the region.
At issue in Uzbekistan and in other undemocratic nations, many officials
said, is the tension between the unmistakable risks and what Mr. Baramdize in
Georgia called the ''very stabilizing role'' of engagement with such countries.
The proponents point out that security aid has several aims. The most
obvious is to improve the tactical abilities of foreign military or law
enforcement units with whom the United States might one day collaborate, or on
whom the United States depends in part for its own security.
Proponents of engagement also hope that intimate contact and training will
slowly change the mind-set of security officials in centralized and corrupt
states, who may exercise restraint at home in moments of instability.
Programs with those goals are run at several training facilities, including
the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, a German-American
institution, founded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in
Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps.
The center seeks to promote Western ideas and management styles among
officials from nations formerly in Moscow's sphere. It has nearly 4,000 alumni,
among them more than 100 Uzbek officials and military and security officers.
Col. Thomas Wilhelm, associate dean for Eurasian Studies at the center, said
that based on contact that it had with its alumni in Kyrgyzstan, there was a
sense that American engagement had helped keep the Kyrgyz security forces from
drawing blood in March as the old government collapsed.
In the case of Uzbekistan, proponents of sustained engagement warn that
without any formalized Western influence in the security agencies, there would
most likely be influence from less democratic sponsors.
''If we pull out of Uzbekistan, it will slip into isolation and they can
learn human rights from Russia,'' said Glen Howard, president of the Jamestown
Foundation, a private organization in Washington that follows the former Soviet
The unease about Uzbekistan is part of a familiar cycle.
Military-to-military ties often exist quietly until actions by a foreign power
galvanize Congress, human rights groups or the public.
For example, after Pakistan tested a nuclear weapon, its order of F-16
fighter jets was halted by Congress, but the deal was put back on track this
year, in part to reward its cooperation in fighting terrorism.
Likewise, the School of the Americas, founded in 1946 at Fort Benning, Ga.,
for Spanish-speaking cadets and officers from Latin America, was the focus of
fierce criticism for having provided training and support for governments that
carried out human rights violations in the 1980's.
A study in April 2001 for members of the House and Senate by the
Congressional Research Service cited reports that ''the school had abusive
graduates'' and that seven Spanish-language training manuals used at the school
from 1982 to 1991 ''discussed forms of coercion against insurgents, including
execution and torture.''
But the authors of the report, Richard F. Grimmett and Mark P. Sullivan,
also cited supporters of the school who said the program ''had the potential to
help bring about greater respect for human rights in Latin America by providing
human rights training to thousands of Latin American military officials.''
CORRECTION-DATE: July 14, 2005
chart yesterday with an article about American aid to foreign military
forces referred incorrectly in some copies to the estimate of aid Afghanistan
received in the 2005 fiscal year under the Foreign Military Financing program.
It was $397 million, not $204 million.
GRAPHIC: Chart/Map: ''Aid for Foreign Forces''The Foreign Military Financing
program -- one of several government programs that assist foreign armed forces
-- provides more than $4 billion to help countries buy U.S.-produced weapons,
equipment and services.Israel: $2.2 billionEgypt: $1.3 billionJordan: $204
millionColombia: $99 millionAfghanistan: $397 millionPakistan: $149 millionMap
of the world highlights countries that received aid under the Foreign Military
Financing program (estimated amount, fiscal year 2005) in the following
amounts:$1 million$10 million$1 billion(Source by State Department)
LOAD-DATE: July 13, 2005