After the massacre of several hundred (perhaps thousand?) civilians by the Uzbek military, the US became rather uneasy about its support for President Karimov. After Karimov and China publicly aligned with each other, the US started moving.
Via Instapundit comes word that the State Department is evaucating the families of its personnel from Uzbekistan. Apparently the Peace Corps and other NGO's are about to pull their people as well. This comes just after a delegation of Senators visited the capital to express their displeasure over the massacre and subsequent crackdown by Karimov's thugs. It seems that practically overnight, Uzbekistan has become hostile territory, or at least unfriendly.
If Karimov is seeking closer relations with China, there is probably some sort of Russian involvement. Russia and China both want to limit American power in Central Asia, and Russia has been nervous over American bases in Uzbekistan in particular. The massacre and its reprecussions gave China a chance to extend its own reach, and Russia is probably happier this way because the American presence is being undermined.
Was this the impetus behind our new pressure on the regime? Or is it simply that we have finally decided that we can no longer tolerate "our SOB's" in order for the spread of democracy to become a true geopolitical weapon against extremism? I don't know, and frankly the practical difference is slight. It seems like the recent tide of democratic feeling in tyrannies is going to stick, and is being supported by the United States. If we should hope to preserve isolated outposts of tyranny because the State Department feels it to be in our immediate interest, it would be foolish and ultimately futile. The Mubaraks of the world are doomed, whether Foggy Bottom likes it or not.
At any rate, what next for Karimov? The presence of American troops in Uzbekistan has to be a constraining factor, but what if he should demand that they leave? I don't think he's ready to do that yet, but the possibility has to be worrying President Bush. I suppose it depends on whether China is willing to make it worth Karimov's while. It will be interesting to watch, at least.