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Today, I had a great series of engagements here in Tashkent, with President Mirziyoyev, General-Lieutenant Makhmudov, General Lieutenant Qurbonov, General Major Kholmukhammedov, and the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Uzbekistan. These were important, high-level discussions regarding the major topics of concern for both militaries.
Yesterday, I had the great honor of visiting Samarkand to observe the incredible culture and history of the Uzbek people. The Uzbek people are proud, rugged warriors with a warfighting culture and a fascinating heritage of accomplishments and such important historic figures as Amir Timur and Mirza Ulugh Beg. This beautiful land is home to some of the most important scientific, artistic, scholastic, and social contributions in all of world history.
Spending this time among the Uzbek people was so insightful for me. No one can get a sense of a people’s culture from a meeting in an office. No one can begin to understand a complicated, courageous, wondrous society from a video teleconference on the other side of the world. Instead, to truly begin to understand Uzbekistan, you must see and hear the song and Khorezm dance, you must see the sweat of the horses competing in Ko'pkari, you must observe the wonder of the incredible Registan architecture.
During my visit, I was so intrigued with the skill, athleticism, and toughness of the Ko'pkari players that I committed to returning this year during the cooler months to participate in a game myself.
These cultural engagements in Samarkand were perfect for me, as were today’s discussions. After all, my priority here was the establishment of relationships that we will need as we build on the security of the region. Uzbekistan is a leader in the region and security of Uzbekistan is security of the region.
This visit is part of what I refer to as my “listening tour”: visits to the countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility. I want to hear from each country’s leadership about the threats they face, the gaps in the relationship, and most importantly, the opportunities ahead to strengthen our partnership. At the end of this tour, I will submit my 90-day assessment to the US leadership. This is an initial written review of my observations in the region. As I am writing the assessment, I want to ensure it represents more than my sole voice, that it also includes the voice of our Uzbek partners and diplomats. So, I have been making my observations, but not from our headquarters in the United States; from in-person and face-to-face.
My two-day visit here also included formal meetings and candid discussions with the top leaders in Uzbekistan. Throughout all these activities, events, and engagements, I was accompanied by General Major Kholmukhammedov, Chief of the General Staff. At each stop, to include throughout our tour of Samarkand, we discussed many important issues of concern for both of our forces.
During our discussions, we sought opportunities for our militaries to share lessons learned from our combat experience earned over a 20-year period. Among these lessons learned is improvements in combat medical care. During our fighting over the last 20 years, our forces learned so much in terms of technology, techniques, and best practices to keep our troops alive during combat. We will now share that hard-gained wisdom with our Uzbek partners. We also hope to learn the Uzbek training, techniques, and procedures that can be valuable for our American military.
Another issue we discussed is the threat posed by violent ideology, a problem for which there is no purely military solution. We are jointly concerned about groups that espouse this kind of ideology that remain a threat.
For example, I have been very vocal about my concern for the growing threat in the al-Hol camp in northeast Syria, which I visited in April. This situation is a ticking time bomb – the camp houses approximately 57,000 people from more than 60 countries, many of them children or brides of ISIS. The conditions in the camp are miserable. Many of the people in the camp feel abandoned by the international community, a feeling which will only push them toward the extremist groups.
The camp continues to grow; women often become pregnant. In fact, there are almost 100 childbirths in al-Hol every month; this will represent a possible threat for the future.
However, as I stated, there is no military solution to this problem. The most durable solution to the challenges at al-Hol is for countries of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate their citizens. We wish to assist with that repatriation.
We thank the Uzbek people and the military for leading the region in repatriating Uzbek citizens from al-Hol back into society. We must continue to support Uzbekistan in this effort.
Finally, we discussed ways to strengthen our special operations forces cooperation. Our special operations forces have so much experience that they can offer, however, they can also learn from the Uzbek special operations forces. We already have a strong partnership between our special operations forces, and we seek ways to broaden and deepen that partnership. In fact, during my visit, I received a briefing from leaders from American special forces and Uzbek special forces participating in a partnered training event.
This was, for me, a great visit. But I can ensure that it was not my last—not after all that I saw, all that I heard, all the wonderful people I met. I will return many times. And, some day soon, I hope you will see me back in Uzbekistan on the field of Ko'pkari.
Эта ситуация является бомбой замедленного действия — в лагере находится около 57 000 человек из более чем 60 стран, многие из которых дети или невесты ИГИЛ. Я приветствую лидерство Узбекистана в репатриации граждан Узбекистана из этого лагеря.
Наконец, мы обсудили пути укрепления сотрудничества наших сил специальных операций. У наших сил специальных операций так много опыта, который могут предложить, однако они также могут учиться у узбекских сил специальных операций. У нас уже сложились прочные партнерские отношения между нашими силами специальных операций, и мы ищем пути расширения и углубления этого партнерства. На самом деле, во время моего визита я получил краткий обзор от руководителей американского спецназа и узбекского спецназа, участвующих в совместном учебном мероприятии.
Для меня это был замечательный визит. Но я могу гарантировать, что это не был мой последний визит – особенно после всего, что я видел, слышал, и всех замечательных людей, которых я встретил. Я вернусь сюда много раз. И, надеюсь, в скором времени вы снова увидите меня в Узбекистане на поле купкари».
- Attributed to Gen. Erik Kurilla, Commander, U.S. Central Command