- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is enhancing counterterrorism cooperation with Central Asia’s five “Stans” countries.

They include some of the world’s most repressive governments.

The State Department says the U.S. and the countries Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will create a regional counterterrorism dialogue to “counter the challenges of foreign terrorist fighters and radicalization to violence in Central Asia.”

Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the nations’ foreign ministers in Washington on Wednesday. Other issues discussed included business competitiveness, transportation, electricity and climate change.

The department criticizes all five for rights abuses. It says Uzbekistan tortures and Tajikistan even cracks down on long beards.

Turkmenistan may be the worst of the bunch. It ranks among the most corrupt nations, isolating itself in a way that draws comparisons to North Korea.

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