Uzbekistan: Ambassador Nominee Krol Clears Senate Foreign Relations Committee
President Barack Obama's nominee for US ambassador to Uzbekistan, Ambassador George Krol, was reported favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, according to a statement on foreign.senate.gov.
Barring any objections -- which appear unlikely -- he is likely to be voted in soon as US ambassador to Tashkent by the full Senate.
At his nominations hearing on May 4, long-time diplomat Krol, who has been actively involved in Central Asia in other positions, gave a simple and uneventful 3-page statement making it clear that priorities for the US government in Uzbekistan are securing the delivery route to NATO troops in Afghanistan, stability, trade -- and human rights, last on the list:
Uzbekistan has provided crucial assistance to its neighbor Afghanistan and to Coalition efforts to stabilize the security situation there. Electricity from Uzbekistan keeps the lights burning in Kabul. Uzbekistan is also an important part of the Northern Distribution Network [NDN], a major supply route for Coalition forces. If confirmed, I will encourage Uzbekistan to maintain this support.
Illegal narcotics, trafficking in persons, terrorism and extremism plague Uzbekistan’s immediate neighborhood. Over the years, U.S. cooperation with Uzbekistan has grown in addressing these transnational challenges through engagement and vetted training programs.
And after a pledge to promote American energy and mining interests to help Uzbekistan "diversity its economy," Krol added:
Almost thirty years experience in the Foreign Service has taught me that long-term peace and durable stability are only possible with respect for human rights, the rule of law, transparent and democratic institutions, a vibrant civil society and an open and free media. If confirmed, I will engage the government and people of Uzbekistan fully and forthrightly, to increase not only our bilateral security and economic engagement, but also our engagement on human rights issues such as preventing arbitrary arrests, addressing allegations of torture and mistreatment in prisons, ending forced child labor, and allowing free practice of faiths.
Although he did not mention the Uzbek government's recent refusal to register Human Rights Watch per se, Krol said "I will encourage the government to make space for civil society in Uzbekistan and for international and domestic nongovernmental organizations to register and function freely."
Last year, in an interview with a Russian newspaper, Krol, who has been serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, mentioned the 2005 Andijan massacre in a discussion about U.S. policy in the region, but stopped short of calling for an independent investigation of the tragedy, which at one time was a US State Department position.
The video and transcript of the meetings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are not yet available, but according to informal reports from observers, Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., chair of the Committee, asked Krol how he would balance the imperatives to promote the NDN for the sake of the war in Afghanistan with the need to raise human rights problems with the Uzbekistan government. Krol responded that he did not see it as an "either/or" situation and would work on both areas, and also try to make explicit the advantages for security when governments respect human rights.