U.S. Central Command conducted Invincible Sentry 20, a bilateral exercise hosted by the government of Uzbekistan in military training facilities within the Tashkent region from February 24 to March 2, 2020.
Invincible Sentry 20 was a crisis response rehearsal designed to evaluate the command and control operations between U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), component command staffs (including SOCCENT), other U.S. Government agencies, and the host nation. It was also designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S. and Uzbekistan forces in case the need arises for a combined response to regional crises or contingencies.
U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) served as the command and control element for all U.S. Special Operations participating in the exercise. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) worked closely with the Uzbekistan National Guard and other Uzbek security forces to train on critical tasks and realistic scenarios that provided an opportunity to pursue ways to better address common threats to regional security.
The exercise allowed for both American and Uzbek participants to improve operational agility when confronted with unfamiliar challenges. Each day of the exercise, U.S. and Uzbekistan forces rehearsed, executed and learned from each other as they went through various tactical maneuver scenarios.
The partnership opportunity served as another repetition for SOCCENT to apply capabilities and achieve validation to continue to provide SOF operational planning and support throughout the region. In addition, the exercise helps the U.S. to maintain a strong working relationship with Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan Independence. With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Central Asian country gained its independence. The U.S. was one of the first nations to recognize the country. After 9/11 the U.S. used a base called Karshi-Khanabad Airbase or K2 in southern Uzbekistan to launch air strikes and Special Forces teams into northern Afghanistan. The U.S. base was maintained until 2005 when relations between the two countries deteriorated because of Uzbek government human rights violations and an alleged massacre of protesters in May 2005.
Improved Diplomatic Relations. The U.S. and Uzbekistan have common interests and there has been an improvement in relations since 2018. There is a desire to prevent the movement of foreign terrorist fighters and narcotic traffickers. Uzbekistan shares a border with Afghanistan and can play a role in stabilizing the security environment. There is hope that Uzbekistan can play a big role in reintegrating Afghanistan into the Central Asian sphere.
“Our military cooperation with Uzbekistan is based on mutual respect and common interests. Training programs and joint response exercises such as Invincible Sentry show the depth and breadth of our security partnership with Uzbekistan.”U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Daniel Rosenblum
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Uzbekistan in February 2020 while touring the Central Asian states. He carried a message to the ex-Soviet Republics – “Beware of China”. He warned Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian countries to be wary of Chinese investment and influence. However Uzbekistan and its neighbors rely on China for much of their foreign trade and investment – so the U.S. will likely see some ‘gentle resistance’ to the message about China.
U.S and Uzbek Military Relationship. The relationship between the U.S. and Uzbek military has been growing over the past few years. The Uzbek Minister of Defense visited SECDEF Mark Esper in July 2019. The minister also visited several U.S. military sites across the country. The U.S. SECDEF was scheduled to visit Uzbekistan in March 2020 but his visit was cancelled due to the coronavirus events.
In August 2019 six Uzbek soldiers visited the Black Rapids Training Site in Alaska exchanging techniques on mountain operations. In September 2019 a number of visits were conducted by Uzbek military officers to explore collaboration on officer training and military research. In addition there have been visits to Uzbekistan by U.S. military members from the aviation and medical community.
SPP, Mississippi, and Uzbekistan. The State Partnership Program links the National Guard of the individual U.S. states with the militaries of other countries. Mississippi and Uzbekistan began their partnership in 2012. Over the past several years they have conducted a number of joint military events. Uzbek special forces participated in a SOF exercise in Mississippi in January 2019. In December 2019 members of the Uzbek Special Operations Battalion visited Camp Shelby, Mississippi taking part in the annual “Best Warrior” competition. The MS NG has plans to post a full-time officer in the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC) in the US Embassy in Tashkent.
The U.S. has an interest in the development of stronger diplomatic and military ties with Uzbekistan. The never-ending fight against terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan, and the great power competition with Russia and China places Uzbekistan in a key geographic position. Once the coronavirus threat has subsided it is expected that the U.S. and Uzbek will continue to conduct staff visits to each other’s countries, conduct joint exercises, and expand mil to mil relationships.
Parts of this article derived from story published on DVIDS on March 17, 2020 entitled “U.S. and Uzbek National Guard together in Central Asia”.
“Rethinking Uzbekistan: A Military View”, by Major Daniel O’Connor, U.S. Army, Military Review, Army University Press, March – April 2020.
United States Strategy for Central Asia: 2019-2025, Department of State, 2020. This 6-page document is posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan.
Photo: A U.S. special operator teaches a member of the Uzbekistan National Guard how to detonate a flash bang grenade while performing tactical movement procedures during exercise Invincible Sentry 20 in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan. Photo by Staff Sergeant Steven Colvin, U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), February 25, 2020.