Friday, June 15, 2012 -
The Pentagon may gift military hardware to Central Asian republics or let them store it for safekeeping when the U.S. pulls its troops out of Afghanistan in 2014, a Russian media outlet report Friday.
The issue is being discussed in “closed talks” between the militaries of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, the Kommersant newspaper reported, citing reliable sources within those countries.
Washington may hand over armored vehicles, tank trailers, and other specialized equipment if an agreement is reached.
A Kyrgyz military source confirmed the Kyrgyz and U.S defense ministers started talks on the issue in March.
The news has provoked outrage from the Kremlin.
Such talks behind Moscow’s back are “absolutely unacceptable,” said an unidentified Russian official.
The diplomatic source said the three Central Asian countries had commitments to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The seven-member CSTO ties the Central Asian states into a military-political alliance under the leadership of the Kremlin.
Kyrgyzstan currently leases a military airbase to the United States which provides logistical support for U.S. and other NATO forces fighting the Taliban. Afghanistan borders Uzbekistan Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
Turkmenistan has not been mentioned as a party to the talks. Although a former Soviet republic like other regional states, Turkmenistan is not a member of the CSTO group.
NATO forces have increasingly used the so-called Northern Distribution Network (NDN) of transportation routes through Central Asia to ferry soldiers and equipment to and from the war zone, especially since Pakistan closed off routes out of Afghanistan to NATO forces in November 2011.