WASHINGTON, Sept 29: President Barack Obama and Uzbekistan’s leader Islam Karimov discussed on Thursday expanding US use of the Central Asian country as a supply route for troops in Afghanistan amid growing concern about the viability of Pakistan as a transit route.
The White House said Mr Obama called President Karimov on Wednesday to congratulate the former Soviet republic on its 20th anniversary of independence and that the leaders talked about shared interests in a “secure and prosperous” Afghanistan.
A senior Obama administration official said the use of Uzbek territory, which already serves as a key supply route for US war supplies, was an “important topic of discussion”. US senators have also made a clear push for improving ties with Uzbekistan so that more supplies can be moved to and from Afghanistan through the ‘Northern Distribution Network’.
The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a bill that would allow the US to waive restrictions on aid to Uzbekistan if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certifies this is needed to obtain access to Afghanistan. The restrictions had been placed over Uzbekistan’s human rights record.
“We’re going to probably replace 50 per cent of what we ship into Afghanistan from Pakistan, to go through the northern route, Uzbekistan,” Senator Lindsey Graham said this week. — Reuters