Addressing the Disabled Veterans of America yesterday, Barack Obama had a perfect opportunity to update Americans about the situation in Kyrgyzstan that he claimed to be monitoring carefully in June. But it was a spokesman from the State Department who announced last week that the United States is giving $48.6 million to Kyrgyzstan for rebuilding efforts after ethnic and political violence led to instability in the Central Asian country earlier this year. If a recent report that Obama is not able to account for 95% of the money given to Iraq is any indication of events in Kyrgyzstan, Americans have good reason to feel uneasy about Obama’s growing negligence.1
The Central Intelligence Agency reports that in addition to endemic corruption, the top national security concerns for Kyrgyzstan are poor interethnic relations and terrorism. Violence last April forced approximately 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks, who comprise a minority of Kyrgyzstan’s population, to seek refugee status in neighboring Uzbekistan, where the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has been gaining influence with links to Osama bin Laden and the greater Taliban movement.2
Answering a question with Obama about the situation in Kyrgyzstan during his June visit to the United States, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was the only one of the two who was able to provide information about the security concerns. “Radical elements may rise to power in that country,” Medvedev said, making reference to the war in Afghanistan. “We will have to address the issues that are addressed by us in other regions.” 3
President Medvedev’s reference to other regions implies a possibility that the same jihadist network of terrorists that the United States and its allies are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq might be able to access the funds donated to Kyrgyzstan through corruption or assert that the money is being used to discriminate against the nation’s Uzbek minority, thus providing a tool for recruitment of Islamic terrorists. Members of the U.S. military working at the Manas Air Base north of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, could also be endangered by radical elements.4
The possibility for attacks against U.S. interests due to the Obama administration’s negligence is enough reason for Americans to keep themselves informed about Central Asian nations like Kyrgyzstan through the CIA website, since the best that the American president can do is joke about eating hamburgers in what he seems to believe is a great game.5
1. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President at Disabled Veterans of America Conference in Atlanta, Georgia,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-disabled-veterans-america-conference-atlanta-georgia. Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, “Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia at Joint Press Conference,” The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-obama-and-president-medvedev-russia-joint-press-conference. Office of the Spokesman, “U.S. Announces $48.6 million Pledge at Donors’ Conference for the Kyrgyz Republic,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/07/145219.htm. Associated Press, “U.S. Fails to Account for Reconstruction Money,” The Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2010, World Watch.
2. The World FactBook, “Kyrgyzstan,” Central Intelligence Agency, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kg.html. Michael Schwirtz, “Ethnic Rioting Ravages a City in Kyrgyzstan,” The New York Times, June 14, 2010, Foreign Desk. Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 85.
3. Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, “Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia at Joint Press Conference.”
4. Ibid. Andrew E. Kramer, “Jet Fuel Sales to U.S. Base Are an Issue in Kyrgyzstan,” New York Times, April 12, 2010, Foreign Desk.
5. Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, “Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia at Joint Press Conference.”