According to someone knowledgeable about Senate activity, lawmakers take it as given that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan - states which border Afghanistan or will feel the effects of Afghan upheaval - will require increases in American aid. These countries have hosted troops in the American-led coalition or facilitated aid deliveries into Afghanistan, and economic payback of some form is a common expectation. But the strategy behind this payback, according to someone with knowledge of the Senate deliberation process, focuses on keeping the region as stable as possible in the immediate term. This will mean incorporating aid to Kazakhstan, which barely contributed to the Afghan campaign, in a supplemental Afghan aid bill. It will also mean encouraging outward-looking regimes in the more active countries. But it will probably not mean formal mandates on free speech or civil society progress, which some fear could antagonize leaders and destabilize the fragile peace.
Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Senate have managed to register their human rights concerns. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), one of the most liberal Senators, added language to the Foreign Operations bill in October that requires the State Department to report on Uzbek human rights. But the Bush administration has clearly sought to address human rights questions through diplomacy rather than through withholding or restructuring aid. Uzbek authorities themselves have acknowledged some of their excesses in recent days.
The administration's caution emphasizes the need for strategic clarity. The government is loath to alienate the ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks who dominate Afghanistan's Northern Alliance; it also worries about weakening presidents' power when the alternatives are unclear. Moreover, says an expert, Congress does not want to get into the business of championing specific dissident groups. "We've given these [leaders] some rope because no one is going to clamor for infinite liberties of a group that we're not sure is peaceful," he says.
In the case of Uzbekistan, the focus on security forces American diplomats to deflect charges of hypocrisy. The State Department announced its $160 million commitment while criticizing Uzbek President Islam Karimov for an orchestrated January 27 referendum that extended his term, possibly for life. [For more information, see the EurasiaNet archives.] When a reporter asked Boucher if the increase in funding amounted to "rewarding