UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s visit to Tashkent on 28 February was not covered in any UK mainstream media that I can find, which is peculiar, given the media’s obsession with covering anything to do with “Our heroes” in Afghanistan. It was not really the kind of visit the state would want to publciise, with Hammond in the rather unheroic position of having his knees firmly placed on the acres of marble floor of Tashkent’s presidentiail palace, with his tongue well and truly stuck up Karimov’s arse.
NATO, including the UK, needs to transit Uzbekistan to get its 14,000 vehicles out of Afghanistan, having well and truly queered the pitch of an exit through Pakistan by a decade of bombing the locals. The Karimov family had already made hundreds of millions in profit through a monopoly of providing haulage and logistical services to supplies going in to Afghanistan. With NATO’s demoralised forces sitting on an incredibly large stockpile of materiel in effect stuck in the country as the utterly fruitless occupation ends, the Karimovs are in a position to ramp up extortion.
That will not only involve huge cash payments going to the Karimov family from the British taxpayer, disguised as transit fees, railway charges, fuel provision etc. It will also include a raft of political demands. Karimov had already in 2011 secured the ending of EU sanctions, and the international respectability he craves for his regime through an official visit to Brussels and call on EU President Barroso.
Now as a condition of facilitating our retreat, Karimov is insisting on a full visit to Tashkent by David Cameron in 2013 or 2014, a state visit by Karimov to the UK in 2015 and acceptance of Gulnara Karimova as Uzbek Ambassador in London. He is also keen to acquire a variety of state of the art UK weapons and surveillance systems for use against his own people. The strong steer from No 10 is that these Karimov demands will have to be accepted.
There is an excellent video here of Scott Horton being interviewed by Galima Burkabaeva on the subject of the kelptocratic Karimov state. Galima was an eyewitness to the Andijan massacre of 2005, in which Karimov’s military murdered some 800 pro-democracy demonstrators. Galima herself only just got away, a bullet passing clean through her reporter’s notebook.
Nice friends Mr Hammond has.
(Am currently in Delhi).