Uzbekistan, US continue to expand military co-operation

By Maksim Yeniseyev

Uzbek soldiers practice at the Black Rapids Training Site, in Alaska, United States. [US Embassy in Uzbekistan]

Uzbek soldiers practice at the Black Rapids Training Site, in Alaska, United States. [US Embassy in Uzbekistan]

TASHKENT -- The United States and Uzbekistan wrapped up another joint military exercise as part of a series of training, meetings and discussions since the beginning of the year.

A new era of relations between the armed forces of the two countries began in January, when Uzbek special forces and the US National Guard took part in joint exercises for the first time at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, United States.

The relations between the militaries of Uzbekistan and the United States continued with a series of mutual visits in August and September.

On September 9-10, a US military delegation headed by Lt. Col. Brad Howe of the Mississippi National Guard visited Uzbekistan to train helicopter pilots. American and Uzbek pilots conducted joint flights and participated in trainings in the Chirchik Garrison near Tashkent on September 10.

A US Air Force delegation visits Uzbekistan and participates in joint training and flights with Uzbek pilots on September 10. [Uzbek Defence Ministry]

A US Air Force delegation visits Uzbekistan and participates in joint training and flights with Uzbek pilots on September 10. [Uzbek Defence Ministry]

The Uzbek flight personnel's level of training was demonstrated to US pilots, including difficult low-altitude flights through mountainous areas, according to the Uzbek Defence Ministry.

"We carried out flights under the guidance of pilots of the Uzbek air force. I must say that they demonstrated top-notch flying skills," said Howe, as cited by the Uzbek Defence Ministry. "This was a true master class for our pilots from Mississippi. For us, training happens on nearly flat terrain, so your experience is certainly important for improving the training of our pilots."

US military personnel also met with the high command of the Uzbek air force and air defence force during the exercises.

'History being made'

In addition, US helicopter and transport aviation specialists discussed the problems of flights under various climatic conditions, in terrains such as mountains and deserts, especially at night, according to the Uzbek Defence Ministry.

"We are undoubtedly seeing history being made," Tashkent-based political scientist Valerii Khan said in an interview. "The militaries of the two countries had no contact for many years after the US base in Khanabad was closed in 2005. Uzbekistan needs the support of international partners in order to effectively ensure security in the region."

Earlier in August, a delegation of US military medical specialists conducted training at the Central Military Clinical Hospital of the Uzbek Defence Ministry.

Topics during the August 26-29 training included working with combat wounds.

Another round of mutual hands-on training took place at a US training site in August.

A group of six Uzbek soldiers visited the Black Rapids Training Site in Alaska August 26-30, according to the US embassy in Tashkent. During exercises in the mountains, US and Uzbek soldiers exchanged techniques used during military operations in hilly terrain.

"The Uzbek team demonstrated a high level of proficiency in military mountaineering which assisted with the overall accomplishment of the exchange," the embassy said in a statement.

"Exchanges between the two groups of soldiers help increase understanding and interoperability for both groups as they compare tactics and equipment," the US Army said in a statement on its website.

Uzbek military personnel, headed by Deputy Minister of Defence Maj.-Gen. Azizbek Ikramov, visited the United States September 9-13 to discuss military education and the co-operation between educational institutions of the two countries.

On September 9, Ikramov met with Vice Adm. Fritz Roegge, the president of the US National Defence University. The two sides agreed to co-operate in officer training and military research and the Uzbek delegation learned about the university and its infrastructure.

The delegation also met with dignitaries including Terry Wolff, director of the US Department of Defence Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies; US congressman Trent Kelly; and Amer Latif, director of South Asian Affairs at the Office of the Secretary of Defence.

The delegation also visited the US Army War College in Pennsylvania.

Military exercises with neighbours

The Uzbek army is expanding co-operation in the name of regional security not only with distant foreign partners, but also with its closest neighbours.

"Recently, joint exercises of the military personnel of Central Asian countries have been held several times a year," said Khan, the political scientist. "Ties have become close, and this is a positive change."

Kazakh and Uzbek units on September 10 held the the Shield 2019 exercises at the Chirchik training ground in Uzbekistan.

The exercises serve to increase combat readiness and exchange experience in the fight against international terrorism, according to the Uzbek Defence Ministry.

On September 16-21, a large command-staff exercise, Centre 2019, was held in Namangan Province, in which soldiers and officers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and other countries participated.

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The USA is [our] priority. Being as far away from the Russian fascists as possible is crucial.