U.S. officials meet with terrorists

U.S. foreign policy changes along with a current political situation

The latest example refers to the upcoming meeting between the Bush administration officials and the representative of the Uzbek opposition who is linked to terrorist organizations of radical Islam, report Dni.ru.

USA meet terroristsUSA and terrorism: getting unexpectedly closer
There are two characteristic features in the coups d’etat which took place in some CIS countries. For some reason those coups d’etat are often called “revolutions.” All of them are pro-Western (largely pro-American) in terms of rhetoric while being essentially anti-Russian.

The West does not conceal its special interest in the “revolutions.” No wonder, the U.S. openly supports the opposition politicians in the CIS countries. At times America’s support looks truly amazing as the U.S. makes friends with groups related to international terrorist organizations, according to the Americans themselves. The White House apparently believes that the U.S. support for international terrorists is not in contradiction to the war on international terrorism.

Representatives of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organization included in the list of the most dangerous terrorist organization by U.S. Department of State, are expected to meet with senior Bush administration officials during their visit to Washington from June 27 to June 30. Washington Post reported last week that Salai Madaminov who goes under the name of Mohammed Salih, chairman of the Democratic Erk Party of Uzbekistan, a leading figure of the Uzbek opposition, will visit Washington at the end of June. Mr. Salih already received a U.S. visa. He hopes to meet with senior Bush administration officials to “describe” the situation in Uzbekistan.

It is quite noteworthy that Mr. Salih is actually a staff representative of Islamic extremists. Two events preceded the open establishment of cooperation between Washington and the Islamists. The Uzbek authorities imposed restrictions on nighttime operations of U.S. military aircraft in Uzbek airspace. The tragic events took place in Andijan. The restrictions significantly complicated combat operations conducted by the U.S. military against Taliban in Afghanistan. Washington’s reaction to the move of Uzbek authorities was twofold. The State Department interpreted it as a response to pressure put by the U.S. on Uzbek authorities to allow an international investigation of the Andijan event. On the other hand, Pentagon officials are very keen to continue cooperation with current Uzbek authorities.

In fact, the Uzbek government raised the issue of curtailing U.S. Air Force operations prior to the events in Andijan. The issue originally stemmed from large costs incurred by Uzbekistan due to the use of the Uzbek air base by U.S. military. After the disturbances in Andijan, the Western interfered in internal affairs of Uzbekistan which refused to allow an "international investigation." As a result, the media produced a different chronology of the event saying that Uzbek President Islam Karimov curtailed U.S. military operation at the base following America’s attempts to take part in the investigation.

U.S. has never been particularly keen on any third-party investigation into the actions of U.S. authorities e.g. in Iraq or 9/11 attacks.  Notwithstanding the above, the Americans never hesitated to demand that other countries allow participation of American specialists in investigations in those countries. The U.S. demanded to allow American experts to partake in investigations of the Andijan riots and events on the North Caucasus.

After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Uzbekistan allowed the U.S. military to use Uzbek airspace and airfields to carry out antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan. Though the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan is far from over, the Americans seem to be switching from the war on terror in Central Asia to establishing cooperation with local terrorists in order stir up “revolutions” in the region.

Who will take part in Washington meetings?
It is still unclear who exactly will be meeting with the representative of Uzbek  Islamists in Washington. ITAR-TASS reported that so far the State Department had had no information regarding a meeting between President George W. Bush and Mr. Salih.

“We have calls out to everybody, and, right now, we don’t have a yesor nofromanybody,” Frank Howard, a media liaison for Erk in the USA, who quoted as saying by Washington Post. A high-level meeting, he added, “has not only symbolic importance, it has potential real importance.” Real importance indeed not only for the Uzbek opposition but for Russia as well. A high-level meeting would mean a U-turn in the U.S. foreign policy with respect to Central Asia. It is hard to overestimate the importance of a shift from the war on international terrorism to cooperation with the former.

By and large, U.S. actions involving double standards can be hardly seen as a novelty this time around. Back in 1980s, U.S. intelligence agencies successfully trained the notorious Osama bin Laden as an apologist of Islamic extremism targeting Russian troops in Afghanistan. Following the 9/11 attacks on USA, Washington suddenly realized that Islamic extremism was a terrible thing. Now Washington is making yet another turn in its foreign policy.

In the case of Mohammed Salih, U.S. authorities actually express readiness to directly cooperate with people closely associated with Osama bin Laden. The thing is that Mr. Salih has close links with Takhir Yuldashev, leader of  the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an organization which was put on the list of most dangerous terrorist organizations by U.S. Department of State.

Tell me who your friend is...
Gauging the changes in the U.S. foreign policy in Central Asia will be easier if we shed more light on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and its links with Mohammed Salih. The leader of IMU Takhir Yuldashev, an ethnic Uzbek, had lived in Peshawar in Pakistan since 1995.

The formation of IMU began in Peshawar with the help of Pakistani Islamists. During his stay in Peshawar Mr. Yuldashev met Taliban leaders and Osama bin Laden. He kept in touch with immigrants from Central Asia in Pakistan. Those people, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, fled Uzbekistan where President Karimov had been waging an unrelenting war on Islamic extremism. Part of those immigrants later joined the IMU which by second half of the 1990s became the leading extremist organization of Central Asia. In 1998 Mr. Yuldashev transferred the organization’s headquarters to Kabul. He and the other leader of the Islamists Juma Namangani were planning terrorist attacks out of Kabul. Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Namangani took command of the IMU while Mr. Salih became “spokesman” for the organization on the international level. 

Aided by Pakistani and Afghani Islamists, the IMU planned combat operations against the legal governments of Central Asian states. The extremists managed to carry out a number of bloody terrorist attacks. They were accused of conducting bombing campaign in the center of Tashkent in February 1999. The IMU got into the headlines all over the world after taking hostage a group of Japanese geologists in Kyrgyzstan.

Military analysts took note of a synchronized manner of actions with regard to attacks launched by Islamic militants in Uzbekistan, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, and terrorists in Chechnya.

Taliban fighters made a famous incursion into the northern areas of Afghanistan as the Russian troops were dislodging Chechen terrorists from Grozny. At the same time, the IMU fighters opened a “second front” in the south of Uzbekistan.

Taliban fell out of grace following the 9/11 attacks on the USA. Washington looked at the hideous face of terrorism and eased pressure on Russia regarding operations in Chechnya. U.S. government also changed its stance on President Karimov’s tough measures against the Islamic militants. Moreover, the State Department put the IMU into the list of international terrorist organizations back in 2000 i.e. prior to 9/11 attacks.

In 2004 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed that the IMU constituted a threat to peace in Central Asia and the rest of the world. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan became blacklisted for the second time.

Today’s situation looks quite absurd since the U.S. authorities consider holding a meeting with the leader of the terrorist organization whose name sits on the most wanted list.

Mr. Bush might as well invite Osama bin Laden, mullah Omar, and Shamil Basayev to the White House to top off the picture. Those guys too can be called politicians of sorts and members of the opposition. 

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Author`s name Marina Lebedeva