Following the terrorist attacks of September 2001, prosecuting the global war on terrorism became the United States’ primary foreign policy priority. The United States focused its initial efforts on Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom because the country harbored elements of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. As a result, countries in the region–Pakistan and the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan–became frontline states in the war on terrorism, raising the profile of U.S. relations with these countries.
Since the attacks of September 2001, the United States has broadened its priorities and increased its assistance and presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the five Central Asian republics–countries with significant political and economic challenges that may affect the United States’ priorities and programs in the region. While not specific to all countries in the region, the United States continues to focus on priorities that were in place prior to September 2001: political and economic reform, nonproliferation, energy development, counternarcotics, and trafficking. However, since that time, the United States has emphasized enhanced security and counterterrorism relationships accompanied by increased military and economic assistance and U.S. military presence. For example, in fiscal year 2001 the United States provided about $342 million in assistance to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the five Central Asian republics. In fiscal year 2002, the United States planned to provide about $1.9 billion in assistance for these countries, primarily for Afghanistan and Pakistan.1 Further, since September 2001, the United States has deployed forces to a number of military facilities in the region to support U.S. operations in Afghanistan. These expanded activities and investments occur in an environment generally marked by authoritarian regimes, poor economic outlooks, and large youth populations vulnerable to the appeal of radical movements.