Uzbekistan presents one of the clearest examples of the paradox confronting the United States in its war on terror: As it pursues Islamist extremists around the world, it sides with a repressive despot out of what is perceived as military necessity.
Uzbekistan is a country run by a dictator. Despite that, the Central Asian state, which borders Afghanistan to the south and has a Muslim population of 24 million out of 27 million, was an early ally in the U.S.-led war on terror. The former Soviet state is also a place where a poor human rights record didn't stop the U.S. government from providing it with nearly $100 million in military aid in the three years following September 11, 2001, a 1,000 percent increase over previous U.S. military assistance, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' database of U.S. military aid.
American largesse helped secure access to a crucial former Soviet air base, Karshi-Khanabad, or "K2," from which the U.S. military could support its forces deployed in Afghanistan.
The strange tale of U.S.-Uzbek cooperation began just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, when a U.S.-Uzbek "status of forces" agreement was signed on October 7, 2001. That same day, the air campaign against Afghanistan began. Through the agreement, the U.S. was formally allowed to place troops on the ground in Uzbekistan and to use the K2 air base in the eastern part of the country for combat and humanitarian missions.