While foreign military aid to the countries of Central Asia is unlikely to have a large impact on security in the region, it's unclear whether the positive effects will outweigh the negative ones. That's according to a comprehensive new report (pdf), "External Support for Central Asian Military and Security Forces," written by Dmitry Gorenburg for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (and supported by the Open Society Foundations, which also funds EurasiaNet).
The 90-page paper is the most exhaustive accounting of military aid given to the Central Asian countries. While "Russia remains the main source of military and security assistance for most Central Asian states" the report also looks at American and other countries' military aid, Both the U.S. and Russian aid is based primarily on quid pro quos, Gorenburg argues: for Russia it is for the sake of "basing rights and a certain level of acquiescence on Russian foreign policy priorities" while for the U.S. it's been "assuring continued access for transferring supplies and personnel to Afghanistan."'
Gorenburg notes that the possibility of Central Asian militaries receiving excess U.S. military equipment from Afghanistan is insignificant relative to the amount of attention it gets:
Much of the discussion about the extent of such assistance has overstated both the amount and significance of equipment likely to be provided and the potential impact of such assistance on regional security. To date, the US Government has not agreed to transfer any excess defence equipment from the Afghanistan operation to Central Asian states. While it is likely that at least some Excess Defence Articles (EDA) equipment will be transferred to Central Asian states at some point in the future, the equipment is not likely to include major weapons systems or even small arms. The security consequences of such donations will be limited.
And he says more attention should be paid to the U.S.'s special forces training programs than to equipment transfers:
The greater threat to regional security is posed not by the potential provision of excess military equipment from International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops leaving Afghanistan, but by long-standing training programmes for the region’s special forces. In recent years, special forces troops trained by the US military have engaged in combat against local insurgents and have fired on unarmed protesters and other civilians in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and possibly Kazakhstan.
Gorenburg's overall assessment of the trajectory of the various countries' military buildups:
While Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan appear to be on their way to building military forces that are relatively capable by developing world standards, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan still have significant problems maintaining even a small rapid reaction force in a high state of readiness. Turkmenistan remains an odd case, with the wealth to develop a serious military force but without the human resources to develop a strategic plan for creating a military that meets its security needs.