The proposed summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and the reformist president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in the iconic Mississippi Delta city of Clarksdale will clearly highlight the White House policy of using job-creating private-sector investment as a means to undermine, and ultimately defeat, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Talk of a summit between Trump and Mirziyoyev comes on the heels of a historic state visit by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant with a delegation of private companies led by Mars, Inc’s Delta-based Uncle Ben’s Rice to Tashkent in June. This was the first time a US governor had ever held an official state visit to independent Uzbekistan (or any other Central Asian nation).
During Mirziyoyev’s White House visit on May 16, 2018, Trump presented the Central Asian leader with America’s sweetest carrot: $6.5 billion in contracts with US big businesses such as conglomerates GE and Honeywell; agriculture-machinery giants Deere & Company and Case New Holland; and Boeing jets for the soon-to-be privatized Uzbekistan Airways.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made a follow-up visit to Uzbekistan in October 2018, keynoting a major financial investment conference in Tashkent.
During an Uzbekistan Independence Day celebration on Saturday in Washington, Representative Trent Kelly, a Republican from Mississippi, said his state and Uzbekistan were tied together through the US Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program between the Mississippi National Guard (in which Kelly holds the rank of brigadier-general) and the government of Uzbekistan.
Bryant’s state visit to Uzbekistan was also historic as it was the first time a US state used its State Partnership – the DOD program that twins individual US state National Guard units with countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America – as the impetus for an official trade mission.
In fact, Kelly was formally awarded a presidential medal by Uzbek Foreign Minister Abulaziz Kamilov at the Independence Day celebration held in the Ronald Reagan Trade Center in Washington last Friday for creating the new close ties between the United States and the Central Asian nation thanks to his two hats: A US congressman and a serving brigadier-general in the Mississippi National Guard.
The US sees Uzbekistan as a strategic partner both in terms of lessening US military involvement in Afghanistan and by curbing China’s aggressive ambitions in Central Asia via its Belt and Road Initiative.
Uzbekistan is the world’s sixth-largest producer of cotton, which accounts for about 17% of the country’s export and a large share of its foreign-currency reserves. It is the common cotton heritage – both good and bad – that ties Mississippi and Uzbekistan together along with Uzbekistan’s critical role in the ongoing hostilities in neighboring Afghanistan.
Clarksdale is also the headquarters of the Delta Regional Authority that brings together Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.
Clarksdale is world famous not only for inventing the modern cotton industry but also as the birthplace of the blues. Even the name of the Clarksdale’s Ground Zero Blues Club, founded by actor Morgan Freeman and Mississippi lawyer Bill Luckett, is aptly named to be part of a high-level summit to implement solutions to end the nearly 18-year military conflict in Afghanistan.
The Trump/Mirziyoyev summit could be an impetus for the US president’s sons Eric and Donald Jr to relaunch plans to build three new four-star hotels in the Mississippi Delta under the Trump Organization’s Scion line, in Clarksdale, Greensville and Cleveland.
A powerful Democratic congressman from Clarksdale, US House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, said he was ready to welcome all comers with true Delta hospitality and Clarksdale’s well-earned fame for tolerance and generosity.