Private Eye reports British military training for Uzbekistan

Private Eye, 10 June 2005, number 1134, page 6

WHILE foreign secretary Jack Straw rushed to condemn Uzbekistan's army for shooting dead civilians in Andijan, no one bothered to suspend the British army's training programme for the very same Uzbek soldiers.

The ministry of defence told Private Eye that the UK-Uzbekistan military cooperation programme was under review following the shootings, but had not been suspended.

Under this programme Uzbek officers train at Sandhurst, the Royal College of Defence Studies in London and at the Joint Services Command and Staff College near Swindon. Less senior Uzbek officers are taught at British training camps in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The MoD says the training falls under "defence diplomacy".

Britain's diplomatic overtures to the not very diplomatic repressive regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan began after 11 September when the US and UK decided to ignore human rights concerns in favour of making the country an ally (it has big oil reserves!) in the "war on terror".

The British embassy in Tashkent says the training aims to "dispel hostility, build and maintain trust and assist in the development of democratically accountable armed forces, thereby making a significant contribution to conflict prevention and resolution". But given the Uzbek army's crackdown and the civilian death toll, it seems the training hasn't been entirely successful.

The MoD told the Eye the programme was designed to "improve leadership skills and make the Uzbek officers more professional as a modernised army would be more democratic and accountable". But it also covers "the 'full spectrum of operations' [and] includes counter-insurgency, peace enforcement, peace support and humanitarian operations".