DUSHANBE, February 16, 2011, Asia-Plus – The Obama administration has listed Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as priority assistance countries in Central Asia for 2012, according to the budget documents submitted by the White House to the U.S. Congress, Silk Road Newsline reports.

“The FY 2012 requests $38.8 million in assistance for Tajikistan,” says the Executive Budget Summary released by the Department of State.

In Tajikistan, U.S. programs are focused on bolstering security, improving governance, addressing deficiencies in health and education and increasing food security.  According to the Department of State, “funding will emphasize increasing the stability of Tajikistan, particularly given its potential impact on U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.”

“Programs will help strengthen the country’s border security and counter-narcotics efforts, strengthen local governance, combat extremism, and improve education and health,” the Department says adding that “programs will focus on solving systemic problems that contribute to food shortages and could threaten Tajikistan’s stability, such as water use, inadequate supplies of seeds and fertilizer, a lack of modern technologies, and poor livestock care.”

Assistance is also concentrated in Kyrgyzstan.  The FY 2012 request prioritizes assistance for Kyrgyzstan to support the new Government’s efforts to reform core institutions, law enforcement, and increase economic opportunities.  “The U.S. administration has requested $40.8 million for Kyrgyzstan for 2012 stressing that the U.S. assistance will be focused on “addressing Kyrgyzstan’s broad, underlying development challenges and chronic instability, which were exacerbated by the effects of the 2010 political upheaval and ethnic violence,” the Summary said

According to the Summary, “programs will work to rebuild reformed security forces, bolster civil society and democratic institutions, and empower the private sector” while “other programs will focus on combating drug trafficking and other transnational threats, and addressing social issues such as education and health.”  “Agricultural programs will focus on improved land use, increased access to inputs, rationalized irrigation, and facilitation of the use of modern technologies,” the document says.

According to Silk Road Newsline, assistance to countries of Central Asia also includes funding requested for 2012 for Kazakhstan ($14.1 million), Turkmenistan ($8.0 million) and Uzbekistan ($7.6 million).  It also includes $3.6 million for the “Central Asian Regional” assistance.

The total amount of assistance for five Central Asian countries in 2012 is proposed to the tune of $112.8 million or 13.6 percent less compared to the 2010 levels when funding under this account amounted to $130.6 million.  Proposed cuts reflect overall strategy by the Obama administration to reduce federal spending across the board.

“We recognize this request comes in difficult budgetary assignment and environment. This is a lean budget for lean times.  We have made painful but responsible choices. We’ve scrubbed the entire budget for savings. We’ve eliminated foreign assistance and programs in several countries. We’ve reduced development assistance by over half in 20 others.  We’ve cut funding in Europe and Eurasia by 15 percent,” Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides told reporters in Washington.

The Department of State documents also show that FY2012 budget request includes funding for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for Central Asia to the tune of slightly over $3 million, including $785,000 for Kazakhstan, $1.0 million for Kyrgyzstan, $600,000 for Tajikistan, $350,000 for Turkmenistan and $300,000 for Uzbekistan.

Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program request for 2012 for Central Asia is $5.6 million including $2.0 million for Kazakhstan, $1.9 million for Kyrgyzstan, $800,000 for Tajikistan, $800,000 for Turkmenistan and $100,000 for Uzbekistan.

Funding for assistance for Central Asia as well as IMET and FMF programs is part of the overall FY2012 Department of State budget request of just over $47 billion.  The administration’s budget proposal will now face close scrutiny in Congress where many members have already indicated that they would be calling for spending cuts due to a high budget deficit and slow economic recovery.

“Over the coming days and weeks, I will be meeting with members of Congress and testifying on the Hill to highlight the President’s 2012 budget.  How we reach 2012 is just as critical.  We need to ensure that 2011 and the process surrounding it doesn’t pull the rug out from under the civilian experts that are working in every corner of the world to pursue America’s security and interests,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after the budget request was submitted to Congress.

“We worked closely with the last Congress to protect our security and advance our values and interests, and I’m confident we can work with this one as well,” Clinton said.