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Central and South Asia: A FMF – Section 1206 Comparison June 18, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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Refugees flocking into Uzbekistan after fleeing ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan have arrived with a surprising story.  The first ethnic Uzbeks to arrive cited marauding bands of ethnic Kyrgyz as their persecutors, but those that followed later recount coming under fire by mutinous soldiers moving in official armored personnel carriers.  This comes less than two years since the U.S. Defense Department delivered “5-ton troop/cargo carriers” to Kyrgyzstan under its Section 1206 global train and equip authority.

Other than in the Middle East, U.S. security assistance is at its most realpolitik in Central Asia.  It’s written all over the Defense Department’s Section 1206 security assistance, as well as the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing.  Winning the war in Afghanistan, including getting to it logistically, define the region’s Section 1206 and FMF assistance packages.

Professionals think logistics: Accessing Afghanistan IS our Central Asia policy

The Defense Department lives by the words of former Marine Gen. Robert Barrow: “Amateurs think about tactics; professionals think about logistics.”  Logistically, there are three ways into land-locked Afghanistan: through Iran, through Pakistan, or through the former Soviet states of Central Asia.  Failing to choose at least one of these three options means not getting to Afghanistan.

Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations struggled with this choice.  We very adamantly mean to be in Afghanistan, and are willing to make the logistical tradeoffs necessary to get there.  Détente with Iran is not one of them, and transit capacity through Pakistan alone is insufficient.  So Central Asia it is – and Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport has provided the only U.S. air transit point in former Soviet Central Asia since our 2005 eviction from Uzbekistan’s Karshi-Khanabad air base.

Going that route comes with its own challenges, of course.  Two revolutions in five years have demonstrated clearly the weakness of the Kyrgyzstani state and the population’s dissatisfaction with the state’s endemic corruption.  Both of these affect the dependability of Manas.  Thinking with laser-like focus on logistics, the Defense Department has responded to both with Section 1206 spending.  This aid helps institutionalize the security forces that maintain stability, and also buys the government’s cooperation (see pp. 3-4).

The $1,673 in human rights training offered in FY2008 to accompany the year’s $12 million Section 1206 equipment delivery – including the five-ton troop/cargo carriers – indicates how dominant military logistics are over other U.S. concerns in Kyrgyzstan.  Only an event of this month’s magnitude – 400,000 Uzbeks have been evicted and another 200 killed – could potentially interrupt our logistical focus.

Prevailing in current conflict: Success in Afghanistan and Pakistan drives global policy

Thinking logistics in Kyrgyzstan is a means to our real priority, fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  Spending hundreds of billions on the war in Afghanistan starkly communicates this priority.  So too does security assistance spending in Pakistan.

The $203 million spent on Pakistan between FY06-09 is the largest expenditure of Section 1206 worldwide, nearly doubling the $105 million spent on Lebanon.  Like all Section 1206 assistance, it has the advantage of being timely and responsive to the mission as it evolves.  Yet it is dwarfed by the $1.2 billion provided by the State Department in FMF over the same period.

FMF’s deliberative, institutional nature contrasts with Section 1206, whose responsiveness often leads to erratic commitments.  Prioritizing FMF in Pakistan makes sense for the U.S. because we seek very permanent improvements in the state’s strength.  Using an institutional program like FMF also makes sense for Pakistan, a state that demands proof that our commitment is durable after feeling abandoned in the 1990’s.

Accepting risk

The war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban burning along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is meant to reduce the risk of another catastrophic terrorist attack against the American people and their state.  Responding to threats like this is the highest calling of a government.  But no response is riskless, and we must be sober about the risks incurred.

Section 1206 assistance to Kyrgyzstan facilitates military operations in Afghanistan.  Building this relationship largely separate from the State Department’s FMF program, however, communicates that it is one of expediency.  That perception is incendiary and can create direct tension between defense and foreign policy priorities.  We saw exactly that during the Andijon massacre in Uzbekistan, in which our foreign policy response triggered the military’s expulsion from Karshi-Khanabad.  As Kyrgyzstan collapses in on itself, we are again vulnerable to this outcome.

Even less imagination is required for Pakistan.  We are living through the consequences of earlier assistance gone wrong even as we offer more assistance now.  This problem is bigger than the appropriate civil-military balance.  Rather it is a decision of core national importance that, for better or for worse, will directly shape U.S. security for decades.

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Comments»

1. Lou - June 21, 2010

1206 is a program of funding that allows us to take action inside the relatively long-lead time FMF budget cycle. The Secretary of State and DoD develop the proposals in concert, so it’s incorrect to say that the two programs are not interrelated or disjointed. State still has the final say as a matter of foreign policy and has exercised that authority.


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