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  Friday, September 25, 2020
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On Friday, the Senate of the Uzbek Parliament unanimously favored the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Khanabad airfield.
They argued that Uzbekistan granted the U.S. access to this airfield in October 2001 exclusively for rescue operations and humanitarian missions during the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. The deputies believe that the Americans no longer need to use the airfield for these purposes. They also mentioned considerations of ecology, and delays in the payment of the promised compensations. Tashkent has already told Washington to withdraw its base from the Khanabad airfield within 180 days, as it follows from the bilateral agreement. Formally, Tashkent has every reason to demand that Washington withdraw its base. The need to raise this question is prompted not only by the interests of Uzbekistan but also by its corporate commitments to its neighbors. Even though the agreement was signed by Tashkent and Washington in October 2001, when the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition launched its operation in Afghanistan, it took into account the interests of Russia and China. Moscow had always stressed that the presence of U.S. bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan ought to be synchronized with the operation in Afghanistan. There are reasons to think that the U.S. wants to keep its bases in Central Asia not so much to support the operation in Afghanistan as to assert itself in this important region that, as most analysts believe, has become a site of the Big Game played by the U.S., China, and Russia. The future of the decision taken by the Uzbek Parliament is not clear but the precedent is of interest as such. This is probably the only case since the war in Indochina, when the U.S. was asked to withdraw its base. Moreover, the request came from the state that was the first in Central Asia to support the U.S. initiative to deploy its military facilities in the region for its anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. Will the Senate's resolution be a final decision, or will it be a subject of bargaining, as was the case with the American base in Kyrgyzstan? Tashkent is not likely to use it as a bargaining chip because it is pursuing its own interests, increasingly emphasizing its orientation to Russia, and, in this case, to China as well. In this situation it is important for Karimov to demonstrate to Moscow and Beijing that he has burnt the bridges in relations with the U.S. In its own way Tashkent is right: everyone has his own interests, including those in the Big Game
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