China and the US Bases in Central Asia: First Base

After September 11, the Bush administration embarked on a bout of diplomatic activity with the aim of establishing military bases for the first time in Central Asia. These states lie to the north of Afghanistan, close to areas in which remnants of the Al Qaeda organisation are believed to have gone to ground. So they are ideal launch pads for military strikes into Afghanistan. Mounting operations from the north also avoids the political difficulties associated with basing US military forces inside Pakistan, where there is still considerable sympathy for the ousted Taliban.

The World Today Published 1 July 2002 Updated 23 October 2020 5 minute READ

Michael Dillon

Director of the Centre for Contemporary in Chinese Studies, University of Durham

Basing us forces in Central Asia has profound implications for stability in a region where post-Soviet authoritarian regimes and radical Islamist movements seem to be the only political options available to communities searching for national identities and economic stability.

It also poses a challenge for China, which has come to regard the region as its own backyard, and on which it has exerted considerable influence in the last decade. China has no experience of any direct conflict of interest with the US in Central Asia, so the outcome is difficult to predict. The status of Russia, formerly the regional overlord and retaining a supervisory role among the governments of Central Asia even after they became independent, is also called into question.

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