Eurasia News Week in Review

A round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around Central Eurasia over the last week:

Central Asia

  • The United States embassy in Astana has denied mediareports that the U.S. is planning to move operations from its Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan. “It would be premature to make any assumptions on whether the United States consider other Central Asian countries for the hypothetical [relocation] of the facilities, and is they do where exactly they will be relocated to. It is too early to talk about it,” the embassy said in a statement to TengriNews. “But we would like to emphasize that the United States are not seeking to establish a permanent base or facility in Central Asia.”

  • Nearly all the fuel used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan is bought in the former Soviet Union, military officials have said. For example, of the 22 million gallons of fuel the military bought in June, about half came from Central Asia, primarily Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Another quarter came from Russia, and the remainder from Belarus, the Caucasus and the Baltic countries, a Pentagon spokesman told U.S. News and World Report.

  • China and Pakistan have scheduled joint air forces exercises over the province of Xinjiang, the home of China’s restive Uyghur minority. China and Pakistan have been at odds over Beijing’s assertion that Pakistan has not done enough to stem activities of Uyghur separatists who use Pakistan and Afghanistan as a rear base. The exercise, scheduled for September, will be a follow-on to a similar exercise held in Pakistan in 2011.

  • The Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service has opened a criminal investigation into alleged corruption in the purchase of Russian helicopters for forces in Afghanistan. The investigation centers around a former United States Army official who has personal ties with the Russian owner of the companies with which the Pentagon contracted to provide the Mi-17 helicopters, according to Reuters. The purchase of the Russian helicopters has been controversial in the U.S. and has been opposed by a number of members of Congress.

  • The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization is working out plans to strengthen the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the organization’s secretary general said on a visit to Tajikistan. It’s not yet clear what the plans entail, but Russia – whose own troops guarded the border until 2005 – has long sought to return to the border, which Tajikistan has strongly opposed. The plan will be discussed at the group’s upcoming summit in Sochi, Russia.

The Caucasus:

  • Azerbaijan has reportedly sought an extensive amount of military equipment from South Korea, including submarines and other naval vessels, drones, attack helicopters, training aircraft, and artillery. The shopping list, totaling about $3 billion, was made during a visit by South Korean parliamentarians to Baku in May, reported South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo (in Korean). But the South Korean government has reservations about the idea, both from fear of angering Russia and from destabilizing the tense situation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

  • Georgia’s defense minister, meeting with United Nations officials in New York, said his country is looking at participating in UN peacekeeping missions. “The Georgian side is considering possibility of deployment of observers and light infantry company size unit in peacekeeping operations ongoing under the UN aegis,” the Georgian Ministry of Defense said in a statement. 

Quick Hits from Central Asia and the South Caucasus:

  • Russia has provided armored cars and a helicopter, among other technical assistance, to Kyrgyzstan as Bishkek prepares to host the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

  • Construction began on the last of six new missile boats being produced for Russia’s Caspian Flotilla under a 2010 contract.

  • Russian and Kyrgyzstani troops conducted joint “anti-terror” exercises at Russia’s Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan. (in Russian)

  • Pakistan’s chief of army staff visited Tajikistan for a three-day trip to discuss security cooperation between the two countries.

  • An opposition candidate for president in Georgia has demanded the withdrawal of the country’s roughly 1,500 troops in Afghanistan.  

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