SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE STATEMENT OF GENERAL DAVID H. PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY,COMMANDER U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND, BEFORE THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE ON THE AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN STRATEGIC REVIEW AND THE POSTURE OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND 01 APR 2009
Though Central Asia has received relatively less attention than other sub-regions in the AOR, the US maintains a strong interest in establishing long-term, cooperative relationships with the Central Asian countries and other major regional powers to create a positive security environment. Central Asia constitutes a pivotal location on the Eurasian continent between Russia, China, and South Asia; it thus serves as a major transit route for regional and international commerce and for supplies supporting Coalition efforts in Afghanistan. Ensuring stability in Central Asia requires abandoning the outdated, zero-sum paradigms of international politics associated with the so-called “Great Game,” as well as adoption cooperative approaches to combat the common enemies of extremism and illegal narcotics trafficking. The United States, Russia, and China need not court or coerce the Central Asian governments at the expense of one another. Instead, there are numerous opportunities for cooperation to advance the interests of the all parties involved.
However, public and civic institutions in Central Asia are still developing after decades of Soviet rule, and they present challenges to efforts to promote security, development, and cooperation. Although there is interdependence across a broad range of social, economic, and security matters, these nations have not yet established a productive regional modus vivendi. Overcoming these challenges requires gradual, incremental approaches that focus on the alleviation of near-term needs, better
governance, the integration of markets for energy and other commercial activity, and grass-roots economic development.
As a part of a broader US effort to promote development and build partnerships in Central Asia, CENTCOM works to build the capabilities of indigenous security forces as well as the mechanisms for regional cooperation. Besides providing training, equipment, and facilities for various Army, National Guard, and border security forces through our Building Partnership Capacity programs, we also work with the national level organizations to facilitate dialogue on security and emergency response issues. For example, in February 2008 and again this past March, CENTCOM hosted Conferences for the Chiefs of Defense from the Central Asian States to discuss regional security issues. CENTCOM also co-hosts the annual Regional Cooperation Exercise, which is designed
to improve regional coordination on issues such as counter-terrorism and security and humanitarian crisis response.
CENTCOM is also working to ensure continued access to Afghanistan through Central Asia. With great support from the US Transportation Command, we have established a Northern Distribution Network through several Central Asian States to help reduce costs of transporting non-military supplies to support NATO, US, and Afghan security operations, while decreasing our exposure to risks associated with our supply lines running through Pakistan. On a related note, we are also pursuing alternatives to the use of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan. A decision by the Krygyz government to restrict US and Allied access to the base would be disappointing but would not constitute a serious impediment to Coalition operations in Afghanistan.
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