Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

US Military Aid Far Outpaces Democracy Assistance in Central Asia

To service the war the Afghanistan, the Obama administration has provided six times more on military aid for the mostly authoritarian states of Central Asia than on efforts to promote political liberalization and human rights.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

Desperate to secure supply routes to Afghanistan, the United States has been spending at least six times more on military aid for the mostly authoritarian states of Central Asia than on efforts to promote political liberalisation and human rights in the region, according to a new report released here by the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

The 45-page report found that the full extent of military aid controlled by the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and channelled through a bewildering variety of programmes is uncertain, but that it is at least three times greater than the State Department's military aid programmes which are subject to human rights and other conditions.

"Nobody really knows how much military aid the U.S. government is giving the Central Asian states," according to Lora Lumpe, the author of the report, 'U.S. Military Aid to Central Asia 1999-2009: Security Priorities Trump Human Rights and Diplomacy'.

"CENTCOM'S Directorate for Policy and Plans is likely to have the fullest picture of U.S. military assistance to the region, but those plans are classified," she noted, adding that Congressional efforts to obtain comprehensive and timely reporting on Pentagon spending in the region have been largely unavailing.

The report, which comes six months after the violent overthrow of the corrupt U.S.-backed government of former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, is likely to spur new questions about whether the strategic benefits the military gains in securing access to bases in Central Asia outweigh the political and other costs in the long term.

In 2007, the Pentagon provided some 30 million dollars in a variety of aid programmes to the Bakiyev regime – mainly as compensation for access to the Manas Air Base, according to the report. That was roughly six times what it spent on democracy and civil society programmes.

The Pentagon also reportedly awarded exclusive fuelling contracts – now under investigation both in Bishkek and in Congress – for U.S. operations at the base to companies in which Bakiyev's cronies and son had substantial interests, contributing to the perception in Kyrgyzstan that Washington was backing a corrupt and increasingly authoritarian regime.

"Now that Bakiyev has collapsed, there are a lot of really angry voices in the new government," said Alexander Cooley, a Central Asia expert at Barnard College in New York. "The Pentagon's 'walking-around money' &may not actually guarantee access (to the bases) over the long term."

The "oversized impact" of the Pentagon – as opposed to the State Department – on U.S. foreign policy has become a major concern of human rights and other critics who claim that Washington's relations with much of the developing world have become increasingly "militarised" since the end of the Cold War.

Six months ago, for example, three Washington-based groups focused on human rights and Latin America policy published a report that found that nearly half of all U.S. aid was being channelled to the region through the Pentagon and that the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) had largely displaced the State Department as the de facto "lead actor and voice" for U.S. policy there.

And, although U.S. development aid to Africa still dwarfs military assistance, similar fears have been voiced about the Pentagon's three-year-old African Command (AFRICOM), which is providing counter-terrorist and counter-narcotics assistance to dozens of countries, primarily in the Sahelian region and in East and West Africa.

Washington has provided military and police aid at various times to the Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan – virtually since their creation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the early 1990s, military and police assistance focused mainly on preventing the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, counter-narcotics trafficking, and border control.

By the end of the decade, aid had expanded in most of the five countries, as CENTCOM – whose writ runs from Egypt to China's southwestern border – sent Special Operations Forces (SOF) to train local troops in counterinsurgency in increasingly restive Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbek and Kazakh militaries were taking part in NATO exercises.

Most of the aid during this period came through traditional military and security programmes overseen by the State Department. Such programmes are subject to Congressionally imposed restrictions that ban, for example, any assistance to militaries that commit gross abuses of human rights or that overthrow democratically elected leaders.

The Pentagon and the combatant commands like CENTCOM, however, came to see State Department programmes as unreliable, driven more by politics than by what they regarded as the strategic needs of the U.S. military, according to the report.

In a trend that accelerated sharply after 9/11, the Pentagon developed a parallel system of "security cooperation" programmes to provide various forms of assistance that would not be subject to Congressionally imposed conditions.

"In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the DOD [Department of Defense] has sought, and Congress has granted, more than a dozen new legal authorities, increasing the ways that CENTCOM (and the other regional military commands) can spend funds from the Pentagon's general coffers to provide direct assistance to foreign militaries," according to the report.

As a result, the Pentagon provided at least 103 million dollars in military-related aid to Central Asian countries in 2007 – the last year for which the Pentagon provided relatively comprehensive figures, Lumpe said.

That was nearly three times as much as was provided under the traditional military aid programmes under the State Department's control. Total U.S. military aid, including the State Department's programmes, came to nearly half of all assistance provided by Washington to Central Asia in 2007, the report concluded.

Since 9/11, most U.S. military assistance has been geared to securing rights of access to military bases used to ferry U.S. troops and material into Afghanistan. That function has become significantly more important over the past two years as the Pakistani Taliban has attacked convoys transporting supplies from Karachi to Afghanistan.

Since the creation of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) in 2008, a land-based supply route for U.S. and allied forces that runs from Europe through Central Asia to Afghanistan, Washington has increased aid to the region's governments and militaries and, perhaps more importantly, awarded local companies – most often with close ties to local regimes – lucrative construction and supply contracts, including in Afghanistan itself.

The Uzbek military and security forces – some of them trained by the Pentagon – massacred hundreds of protesters in 2005, Washington cut off new assistance, and Uzbekistan is the one country in the region where Washington has spent more on democratisation programmes than on military assistance.

After the aid cut-off, however, the government of President Islam Karimov bought more than 12 million dollars in military equipment and training from aid credits that had already been approved. With Washington's approval, Tashkent subsequently bought more than 50 million dollars of weapons and training directly from U.S. companies, according to the report.

Despite the lack of improvements in human rights conditions, the restrictions on military aid "are beginning to be relaxed", according to the report.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has been an outspoken proponent of militarist U.S. foreign polices and the use of torture, aping the views of her father, Dick Cheney.

United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.

John Bolton, senior fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and the controversial former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has been considered for a variety of positions in the Trump administration, including most recently as national security adviser.

Gina Haspel is a CIA officer who was nominated to head the agency by President Donald Trump in March 2018. She first came to prominence because of accusations that she oversaw the torture of prisoners and later destroyed video evidence of that torture.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson, is a “tea party” Republican who previously served as director of the CIA.

Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who served as a foreign policy aide to former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been advocating regime change in Iran since even before 9/11.

For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

Hardliners at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies are working overtime to convince the Trump administration to “fix” the nuclear agreement with Iran on the pretext that it will give the US leverage in negotiations with North Korea.

Print Friendly

North Korea and Iran both understand the lesson of Libya: Muammar Qaddafi, a horrifyingly brutal dictator, gave up his nuclear weapons, was eventually ousted from power with large-scale US assistance, and was killed. However, while Iran has a long and bitter history with the United States, North Korea’s outlook is shaped by its near-total destruction by forces led by the United States in the Korean War.

Print Friendly

Europe loathes having to choose between Tehran and Washington, and thus it will spare no efforts to avoid the choice. It might therefore opt for a middle road, trying to please both parties by persuading Trump to retain the accord and Iran to limit missile ballistic programs and regional activities.

Print Friendly

Key members of Trump’s cabinet should recognize the realism behind encouraging a Saudi- and Iranian-backed regional security agreement because the success of such an agreement would not only serve long-term U.S. interests, it could also have a positive impact on numerous conflicts in the Middle East.

Print Friendly

Given that Israel failed to defeat Hezbollah in its war in Lebanon in 2006, it’s difficult to imagine Israel succeeding in a war against both Hezbollah and its newfound regional network of Shiite allies. And at the same time not only is Hezbollah’s missile arsenal a lot larger and more dangerous than it was in 2006, but it has also gained vast experience alongside its allies in offensive operations against IS and similar groups.

Print Friendly

Donald Trump should never be excused of responsibility for tearing down the respect for truth, but a foundation for his flagrant falsifying is the fact that many people would rather be entertained, no matter how false is the source of their entertainment, than to confront truth that is boring or unsatisfying or that requires effort to understand.

Print Friendly

It would be a welcome change in twenty-first-century America if the reckless decision to throw yet more unbelievable sums of money at a Pentagon already vastly overfunded sparked a serious discussion about America’s hyper-militarized foreign policy.