Drills that Uzbekistan's National Security Service (SNB) and Interior Ministry forces have been conducting recently seem to go beyond the realm of exercises.
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, reports that what was described by authorities as a "drill" in two villages in the Ferghana Valley recently resulted in the arrest of some 40 people.
The action took place on May 15-16 in the Oltiariq district of Uzbekistan's Ferghana Province and was intended to simulate the kind of unrest that erupted in Andijon 10 years earlier.
SNB and Interior Ministry forces, supported by armored vehicles, reportedly arrived in the two villages on May 15 and deployed around the area, surprising and sparking fear among local residents.
Locals were even more alarmed when about 40 residents were arrested and taken away, which did not seem to be part of the drill.
All those taken into custody were soon released. But for them and their relatives it must have been a frightening experience, especially since SNB and Interior Ministry forces staged a real raid in the same district on April 13 and arrested eight people on charges of being members of a banned religious organization.
Ozodlik reported a "de facto curfew" was imposed on the district for several days following the April raid.
Uzbeks, Kyrgyz Inherit U.S. Equipment
On a different note, many people have written about (here and here) the U.S. decision to send Uzbekistan more than 320 MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles).
But Uzbekistan is not the only Central Asian country that has received U.S. military vehicles.
RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service pointed out during Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev's May 26 visit to a military base in southern Jalal-Abad Province that the vehicles in the below photograph belong to the Kyrgyz military, a gift from the departing U.S. forces that were stationed at the Manas Airport near Bishkek.
-- Bruce Pannier
With contributions by Farruh Yusupov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service