The United States put Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and several others nations on notice for what the State Department said was increasing problems with religious freedoms.
The move, announced April 15 by State Department spokesman John Kirby, potentially restricts various kinds of U.S. government cooperation or aid programs.
However, Kirby said there would be a waiver of such restrictions for Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan due to what he called the “important national interest of the United States.”
Others that were being designated “Countries of Particular Concern” include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.
Kirby gave no details as to why the designation was being made, but he told reporters that the countries directly affected could see reduced military cooperation or other sanctions such as visa restrictions.
The Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan have faced varying threats of Islamic extremism in recent years. All three also border Afghanistan, where fears are growing of a resurgent Taliban.