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The U.S. and Central Asia: A New Relationship?

Central Asian Foreign Ministers pose for a photo with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Samarkand on November 1.
Central Asian Foreign Ministers pose for a photo with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Samarkand on November 1.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry just wrapped up a trip through Central Asia that was aimed at reassuring the leaders of five states that U.S. support will continue, even as security concerns in the region rise.

Kerry's trip signals the start of a "post-Afghanistan relationship" with the U.S., whose withdrawal of most troops from the country will diminish its dependence on the military support and supply routes that it needed in Central Asia when it was actively prosecuting the war. At the same time, a resurgent Taliban on Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, and the activities of Islamic State and indigenous extremist groups in the region, present new challenges for the U.S., and for Russia and China as well.

In a meeting with students in Kazakhstan, the Secretary acknowledged the challenges, while cautioning, "...terrorism is not a legitimate excuse to lock up political opponents, diminish the rights of civil society, or pin a false label on activists who are engaged in peaceful dissent."

Join us in this edition of RFE/RLive to examine the secretary's trip and the new US - Central Asia relationship, with its implications for security and human rights in the region.

The U.S. and Central Asia: A New Relationship?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Washington, D.C.--9:00 a.m. / Prague--3:00 p.m. / Moscow--5:00 p.m. / Bishkek–8:00 p.m.

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Alexander Cooley is a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and the current Director of Columbia University's Harriman Institute. Professor Cooley’s research examines how external actors– including international organizations, multinational companies, NGOs, and foreign military bases – have influenced the development and sovereignty of the former Soviet states, with a focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Steve Swerdlow esq. is a Central Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch, where he investigates and advocates on a wide range of issues in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the post-Soviet region. An attorney with more than fifteen years of experience working on human rights and refugee issues in the former Soviet Union, Swerdlow has headed Human Rights Watch’s Central Asia office in Bishkek, and worked earlier with the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews, the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the International Organization for Migration (IOM in Russia, and the San Francisco-based law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. Swerdlow’s scholarly work has focused on human and minority rights in the former Soviet Union, including the plight of the deported Meskhetian Turks.

William Courtney is an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND Corporation and executive director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum. He earlier served as U.S. Ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan , and was a special assistant to the President for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia at the National Security Council. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Amb. Courtney also belongs to the boards of directors of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the World Affairs Council of Washington DC, and the advisory council of the Eurasia Foundation.

Bruce Pannier, the editor of Qishloq Ovozi, RFE/RL’s Central Asian blog, has covered Central Asia and energy issues for RFE/RL since 1997. Pannier also worked as an analyst with the Open Media Research Institute in Prague, and in 1992r led a University of Manchester and Soros Cultural Initiative Foundation-sponsored sociological project in Central Asia that allowed him to live in rural Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Moderator -- Muhammad Tahir is Director of RFE/RL's Turkmenistan Service. He joined RFE in 2002 as an editor and broadcaster for the Turkmen Service in Prague. He has also worked as a regional correspondent for IHA Turkish Television News Agency in Islamabad and Kabul, from 1999-2002