In a September 2012, Security Assistance Monitor blogger, Joshua Kucera, published a report on the United States’ military aid in Central Asia. In the report, Kucera notes that U.S. military aid to Central Asia significantly increased after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2002. While all Central Asian countries experienced an increase in assistance, the U.S. relationship with the various countries has changed through the years. As Jim Nichol notes, in a July 2013 Congressional Research Service report (PDF), Kazakhstan became increasingly important to the U.S. throughout the previous decade. According to Nichol, “after Uzbekistan closed the airbase in mid-2005 in the wake of U.S. concerns about human rights abuses in that country, U.S. policy attention appeared to shift more to Kazakhstan as the most significant U.S. ‘partner’ in the region.”
One way to examine the U.S. relationship with the Central Asian countries is through its assistance programs in the region. Using the forthcoming Security Assistance Monitor database, we can get a quick look at whether these reported trends – for instance, the ascendance of Kazakhstan as an important U.S. partner – are reflected in U.S. security assistance data.
As shown in the chart below, from 2001-2005 Uzbekistan is clearly the top recipient of U.S. military and police aid, obtaining over USD 131 million, with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan second and third and receiving less than USD 100 million each. In contrast, from 2006-2010, Kazakhstan is clearly the top recipient of military and police aid, obtaining nearly USD 260 million, with Kyrgyzstan second (USD 224 million) and Uzbekistan falling to fourth among the five Central Asian States, receiving USD 42 million.
*These data add the State Department’s security assistance programs found in the Congressional Budget Justification and the Government Assistance to Eurasia reports as well as the numerous Defense Department assistance accounts (PDF and PDF).
Digging deeper into the Security Assistance Monitor’s database, it is also interesting to note that Kazakhstan received an increase in funding from U.S. assistance programs that focus on hard security capabilities such as counternarcotics and counterterrorism. For instance, before 2007 Kazakhstan only received USD 8,000 worth of training through the Defense Department counternarcotics accounts – Sections 1004 and 1033 – whereas between 2007 and 2010 it receives a combined USD 29.5 million from these funds. Moreover, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the only two Central Asian countries to receive funding from the Defense Department counterterrorism assistance authority called Section 1206, with Kazakhstan receiving a combined USD 31 million in 2007 and 2008. This amount places Kazakhstan as the 10th largest recipient of Section 1206 funding in the world between 2006 and 2010, as also noted by CRS (PDF).
Of course, this military and police aid is only one facet of the security relationship between the United States and Central Asia. But, this quick snapshot of assistance to Central Asia falls in line with Nichol’s assertion that Kazakhstan became a closer U.S. security partner after human rights violations and the closure of a U.S. airbase in Uzbekistan in 2005 chilled relations between the Uzbekistan and the U.S.