Uzbekistan: Current Developments and U.S. Interests

Uzbekistan: Recent Developments
and U.S. Interests
Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Uzbekistan is a potential Central Asian regional power by virtue of its relatively
large population, energy and other resources, and location in the heart of the region. It
has failed to make progress in economic and political reforms, and many observers
criticize its human rights record. This report discusses U.S. policy and assistance. Basic
facts and biographical information are provided. This report may be updated. Related
products include CRS Report RL33458, Central Asia: Regional Developments and
Implications for U.S. Interests.
U.S. Policy
According to the Administration, “it is in the
U.S. and Uzbekistan’s interest to promote
democracy, respect for human rights, territorial
integrity, and the transition to a market-based
economy in order to bolster greater social and
political stability.” However, the Uzbek
government’s continued “repression of civil society,
religious groups, and political opposition [decreases]
options for U.S. assistance.”1
Cumulative U.S. assistance budgeted for
Uzbekistan in FY1992-FY2007 was $845.5 million
(FREEDOM Support Act and agency budgets). In
FY2008, estimated budgeted assistance was $10.19 million, and the Administration has
requested $7.94 million for FY2009 (FREEDOM Support Act and other Function 150
foreign aid, excluding Defense and Energy Department funds). The main priorities of
U.S. assistance requested for FY2009 are planned to be democratization, healthcare, and
agricultural reforms. Plans for FY2009 include support for local groups, lawyers, and

1 U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Congressional Notification: Uzbekistan,
No. 155, August 7, 2008.

activists on international human rights
Basic Factsstandards and how to protect human
Area and Population: Land area is 174,486 sq. mi.,rights. Plans also include support for
slightly larger than California. The population is 28.3
million (World Factbook, mid-2008 est.). Adminis-democratization programs “to improve
trative subdivisions include the Karakalpak Republic.the legal framework for non-govern-
Ethnicity: 80% are Uzbek, 5.5% Russian, 5% Tajik, 3%mental organization (NGO) and media
Kazakh, 2.5% Karakalpak, 1.5% Tatar, and othersoperation, develop civil society organi-
(World Factbook, 1996 est.). More than 1.2 millionzational capacity, and strengthen public
Uzbeks reside in Afghanistan, one million in Tajikistan,
and a half-million in Kyrgyzstan.access to objective information.”
Gross Domestic Product: $64.15 billion; per capitaHowever, USAID recently has pared its
GDP is about $2,300 (World Factbook, 2007 est.,FY2009 request for democratization
purchasing power parity).aid and boosted its request for
Political Leaders: President: Islam Karimov; Prime
Minister: Shavkat Mirziyoyev; Speaker of thehealthcare, “which will improve public
Legislative Chamber: Dilorom Toshmuhammadova;trust, goodwill, and stability, all of
Speaker of the Senate: Ilgizar Sobirov; Foreignwhich directly contribute to U.S. for-
Minister: Vladimir Norov; Defense Minister: Ruslaneign policy priorities for Uzbekistan.”
Mirzayev.USAID has called for more child sur-
Biography: Karimov, born in 1938, in 1989 became
First Secretary of the Uzbek Communist Party. In 1990,vival assistance. It also warns that
the Uzbek Supreme Soviet elected him to the newlyUzbekistan “has one of the world’s
created post of President, and he also became a memberhighest recorded rates of multidrug
of the Soviet Communist Party Politburo. In Decemberresistant tuberculosis, and proposes
1991, he was popularly elected President of Uzbekistan,that U.S. aid “will result in stronger
winning 86% of the vote against opposition Erk Party
candidate Mohammed Solikh. In 1995, Karimovpolitical support for tuberculosis con-
orchestrated a popular referendum to extend his presi-trol, enhanced human and systems
dency until 2000, won re-election, and in 2002 orches-capacity, and mobilized communi-
trated another to extend his term until December 2007.ties.”2 The FY2009 request for secu-
rity assistance is one-half of estimated
funding for the previous year, because the Uzbek government “has continued to obstruct
U.S. efforts.” In FY2008, the State Department has not been able to use budgeted security
assistance, so has only requested $710,000 for FY2009. A substantial share of security
assistance requested for FY2009 is planned for combating human trafficking and to care
for victims, and will be provided through the International Organization for Migration.3
In 2007, according to the State Department, the Uzbek government reacted to U.S.
criticism of its democracy and human rights record by suspending the operations of two
U.S.-funded NGOs, forcing the closure of a U.S.-based international human rights
organization, and hampering the operations of U.S.-funded educational and other
exchange programs. None of the more than 15 U.S.-funded organizations closed in 2006
were permitted to reopen. The United States continued to support the development of
civil society by funding a cadre of professional nonprofit lawyers to render legal
assistance to civil society groups, by sponsoring organizations that provide legal advice
to the government on how to reform the legal and regulatory framework for NGO and
media operations, and by awarding small grants to 30 NGOs and media outlets.4

2 USAID. Congressional Notification: Uzbekistan, August 7, 2008.
3 U.S. Department of State. Congressional Budget Justification for FY2009.
4 U.S. Department of State. Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, May 23, 2008.

Since FY2003, Congress has prohibited FREEDOM Support Act assistance to the
central government of Uzbekistan unless the Secretary of State determines and reports
that Uzbekistan is making substantial progress in meeting commitments to respect human
rights, establish a multiparty system, and ensure free and fair elections, freedom of
expression, and the independence of the media (P.L.108-7; P.L.108-199; P.L. 108-447;
P.L. 109-102). Congress received a determination of progress in FY2003. In FY2004 and
thereafter, however, aid to Uzbekistan has been withheld because of lack of progress on
democratic reforms. Among other assistance, International Military Education and
Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs are conditioned on
respect for human rights so also have been curtailed. Some aid that is subject to
restrictions has been reprogrammed or allocated using notwithstanding authority.
Contributions to the Campaign Against Terrorism
An agreement on the U.S. use of the Khanabad airbase, near the town of Karshi
(termed the K2 base) for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan was signed
in October 2001, and a joint statement pledged the two sides to consult in the event of a
threat to Uzbekistan’s security and territorial integrity. In March 2002, the two sides
signed a “Strategic Partnership” accord that reiterated this nonspecific security guarantee
and Uzbekistan pledged to “intensify democratic transformation.” In addition to security
assurances and increased military and other aid, U.S. forces in Afghanistan killed many
terrorists belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU; dedicated to the
forceful establishment of Islamic rule in Uzbekistan). Following U.S. criticism of Uzbek
government actions in Andijon (see below), the government demanded at the end of July
2005 that the United States vacate K2 within six months. On November 21, 2005, the
United States officially ceased operations at K2. The Uzbek government has permitted
Germany to maintain a small base at Termez.
Foreign Policy and Defense
Home to more than half the population of Central Asia, Uzbekistan seeks to play a
leading role in regional affairs. From the late 1990s until mid-2005, Karimov’s priority
was to seek closer security ties with the United States while maintaining working relations
with Russia and China. However, after the mid-2005 events in Andijon (see below), he
shifted to closer ties with the latter two states. In 2001, Uzbekistan joined the SCO and
in 2003 insisted on hosting its Regional Anti-Terrorism Center. Uzbekistan has ongoing
tensions with other Central Asian states over its mining of borders, water-sharing, border
delineation, and other issues. In 1998, the Tajik president accused Uzbekistan of
supporting an uprising in northern Tajikistan, and in July 2008, the head of the Tajik
Supreme Court asserted that Uzbek security forces had bombed the Supreme Court
building the previous summer as part of efforts to topple the government. In 2002, the
Turkmen government accused Uzbek officials of conspiring to overthrow it. The Kyrgyz
premier rejected claims by Karimov in 2005 that Kyrgyzstan had provided training
facilities and other support for the Andijon militants.
The Uzbek military is the most advanced among those of the Central Asian states.
The armed forces consist of about 50,000 ground force troops and 17,000 air force troops.
There are also up to 19,000 internal security (police) troops and 1,000 national guard
troops (The Military Balance, February 2008). Uzbekistan’s military doctrine proclaims

that it makes no territorial claims on other states and adheres to nuclear non-proliferation.
Military cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan is ensured through a 1992
Friendship Treaty, a 1994 military treaty, a 1999 accord on combating terrorism and
Islamic extremism, and a November 2005 Treaty of Alliance. The latter accord calls for
mutual consultations in case of a security threat to either party. In December 2006,
Uzbekistan rejoined the Collective Security Treaty Organization (it had withdrawn in
1999; members now include Russia, Belarus, Armenia, and the Central Asian states
except Turkmenistan). Until 2005, Uzbekistan played an active role in NATO’s
Partnership for Peace (PFP) by participating in military exercises and training. Perhaps
a conciliatory sign, Karimov attended the NATO summit in April 2008 and offered to
facilitate NATO rail shipments through Uzbekistan to Afghanistan.
On February 16, 1999, six bomb blasts in Tashkent’s governmental area by various
reports killed 16-28 and wounded 100-351. Karimov termed the bombing an
assassination attempt. He alleged that exiled Erk Party leader Mohammad Solikh led the
plot, assisted by Afghanistan’s Taliban and IMU co-leader Tahir Yuldashev. Solikh
denied any role in the bombings. In November 2000, Yuldashev and Namanganiy
received death sentences and Solikh 15.5 years in prison. Another defendant, Najmiddin
Jalolov (see below), received 18 years (all in absentia). Other security threats included
the invasion of neighboring Kyrgyzstan in July-August 1999 by several hundred IMU and
other guerrillas. They were rumored to be aiming to create an Islamic state in south
Kyrgyzstan as a springboard for a jihad in Uzbekistan. By mid-October 1999, they had
been forced out of Kyrgyzstan with Uzbek aid. The next August, dozens of IMU and
other guerrillas again invaded Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but were expelled by late
October. In September 2000, the State Department designated the IMU as a Foreign
Terrorist Organization, and stressed that the “United States supports the right of
Uzbekistan to defend [itself against] the violent actions of the IMU.”
A series of bombings and armed attacks took place in Uzbekistan in late March-early
April 2004, reportedly killing 47 individuals. President Karimov asserted that the attacks
were aimed to “cause panic among our people, [and] to make them lose their trust” in the
government. The then-Combined Forces Commander for Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David
Barno, visited Uzbekistan in April 2004 and stressed that “we stand with Uzbekistan in
facing down this terrorist menace.” The obscure Islamic Jihad Union of Uzbekistan (IJU;
reportedly a breakaway faction of the IMU) claimed responsibility. Suspected terrorists
testified at a trial in mid-2004 that Jalolov was the leader of IJU, that they were trained
by Arabs and others at camps in Kazakhstan and Pakistan, and that the IJU was linked to
Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Taliban, Uighur extremists, and Al Qaeda. During this trial,
explosions occurred on July 30, 2004, at the U.S. and Israeli embassies and the Uzbek
Prosecutor-General’s Office in Tashkent. The IMU and IJU claimed responsibility.
On May 12, 2005, an armed group stormed a prison in Andijon where those on trial
were held and released hundreds of inmates. There is a great deal of controversy about
whether this group contained foreign-trained terrorists or was composed mainly of the
friends and families of 23 businessmen who were on trial on charges of belonging to an
Islamic terrorist group. Many freed inmates then joined others in storming government
buildings the next day. Karimov flew to the city to direct operations and reportedly had
restored order by late on May 13. According to testimony at the first major trial in late
2005 of alleged Andijon terrorists, the governments of the United States and Kyrgyzstan
had helped finance and support the terrorists’ attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate,

and international media, local human rights groups, and NGOs had conspired in this
attempt. The U.S. and Kyrgyz governments and several media organizations denied such
involvement. The United States and others have called for an international investigation,
which Karimov has rejected.
Political and Economic Developments
In January 2002, Karimov orchestrated a referendum on a new constitution that
created a bicameral legislature. A constitutional provision extended the presidential term
to seven years, while another appeared to extend it to eight. The legislature (termed the
Oliy Majlis or Supreme Assembly) consists of a 120-member, directly-elected lower
chamber, the Legislative Chamber, and a 100-member upper chamber, the Senate. The
Senate is composed of 16 members appointed by the president, with the rest selected by
local legislatures. The Legislative Chamber has formal responsibility for drafting laws.
Constitutional amendments approved in April 2003 established that — after the next
presidential election — the prime minister would exercise greater power. In January

2005, Karimov explained that he aimed to create three powerful branches of government,

to correct a situation where “everything now depends on me.”
Only pro-Karimov parties operate legally: the Popular Democratic Party (PDP),
founded by Karimov; the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party; the Liberal-
Democratic Party, consisting of government-connected businessmen; and the Milliy
Tiklanish (National Revival) Party, consisting of state-supported intellectuals. The former
Fidokorlar (Self-Sacrifice) National Democracy Party, created by Karimov as a youth
party, merged with the National Revival Party in June 2008, and the enlarged party joined
the “Democratic Bloc” of Legislative Chamber factions (including Adolat and the Liberal
Democratic Party) in August 2008. A constitutional law on parties and democratization
came into effect in 2008 that permits “opposition” party deputies in the Legislative
Chamber to offer alternative bills and take part in debates. The law also calls for the
president to “consult” with Legislative Chamber factions before nominating a candidate
for prime minister.
A limited observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) concluded that Legislative Chamber elections held on December 26,
2004, “fell significantly short of ... international standards for democratic elections.” The
lack of open information about the race contributed to low public interest and in less than
a 50% turnout in half the districts, triggering required run-offs on January 9, 2005. Two
weeks later, local legislatures, overseen by members of the Central Electoral Commission
(CEC), selected Senators. The president’s sixteen appointees to the Senate included
deputy prime ministers, the chairman of the Supreme Court, and the foreign minister,
making the Senate an amalgam of the three branches of government.
The Uzbek CEC in mid-November 2007 approved four candidates to run in the
prospective December 23, 2007, presidential election. Although the Uzbek constitution
bars a president from more than two terms, the Uzbek CEC argued that since the most
recent constitution was approved in 1992, incumbent President Karimov’s “first term”
should be considered as following his election in January 2000, so that he could run for
a “second term” in December 2007. Karimov won re-election with 88% of 14.8 million
votes with a 90.6% turnout. According to OSCE observers, the election “generally failed
to meet many OSCE commitments for democratic elections.” There were no campaign

debates or open public meetings and media coverage was minimal. Each candidate used
similar language to laud economic development and democratization under the incumbent
president. The OSCE observers reported that the reported turnout appeared suspect.5 In
his inaugural address on January 16, 2008, Karimov thanked the citizenry “who gave me
a massive vote of confidence by freely expressing their will [in an] election which was
held in full compliance with ... universally recognized democratic standards.”6
The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007
(released in March 2008) reported that Uzbek security forces routinely tortured, beat, and
otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions or testimony. Police arbitrarily
detained citizens to extort bribes and frequently detained individuals for expressing views
critical of the government. During 2007, several human rights activists, journalists, and
Andijon residents were imprisoned for speaking about the 2005 events. In several cases,
authorities subjected critics of the regime to forced psychiatric treatment. Police regularly
detained citizens to prevent public demonstrations. Authorities sought to control all
NGOs. The government restricted religious activity, treating virtually all non-approved
religious observance as a crime. The government tightly controlled and censored the mass
media, but some regional television stations reportedly were able to broadcast some
critical stories on local issues. Journalists and human rights advocates who criticized the
government were subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, politically motivated prosecution,
and physical attack. An amended media law required all Internet bloggers to register and
provide authorities with copies of blogs. Human trafficking continued to be a significant
problem. The government took some modest steps to combat it, although it did not fully
comply with minimum standards for elimination of trafficking.
After economic dislocations associated with the breakup of the Soviet Union, the
Uzbek economy ceased to decline and began to turn around in 1996. GDP increased an
estimated 9.5% in 2007 and consumer price inflation was an estimated 38% (The World
Factbook). In 2003, Uzbekistan announced that it would permit full currency
convertibility, but vitiated the reform by reducing money in circulation, closing borders,
and placing punitive tariffs on imports. These restrictions helped fuel organized crime,
corruption, consumer shortages, and unemployment. Uzbekistan is the world’s fifth-
largest cotton producer and second-largest exporter. About 30% of the country’s
economic activity is based on agriculture, and the bulk of foreign currency earnings are
based on cotton exports. The government closely controls this sector. A large portion of
GDP growth reportedly is contributed by a tiny private sector. One quarter or more of the
population remains below the poverty level, and a large portion of the working age
population migrates abroad for work. The European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development announced in 2004 that it would limit lending in Uzbekistan, citing the
government’s poor democratization and human rights record. Other international
financial institutions have maintained some engagement. The International Monetary
Fund in June 2008 praised Uzbekistan for high growth rates, large current account
surpluses, a significant decline in the debt burden, and an increase in foreign exchange

5 OSCE. Final Report on the Presidential Election in Uzbekistan, April 23, 2008.
6 Open Source Center. Central Eurasia: Daily Report, January 16, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950404.