|Uzbekistan Grants U.S. Flyovers, Limited Basing |
Uzbekistan Grants U.S. Flyovers, Limited Basing
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA, American Forces Press Service.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan -- (AFPS) October 5, 2001 -- Uzbekistan agreed Oct. 5 to allow American forces to use an airfield here and to use Uzbek air space.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (left) and Uzbekistani President Islom Karimov speak to reporters in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Following the two leaders' meeting Oct. 5, 2001, Karimov announced his country would grant the United States limited fly-over and basing privileges.
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
Uzbekistani President Islom Karimov made the announcement in a joint press conference shortly after a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The secretary has been on a whirlwind three-day trip the Middle East and Central Asia to strengthen relationships in the region.
Karimov didn't identify the base to be used by the United States, but did specify access is limited to cargo aircraft and their crews and search and rescue personnel.
"We are against the usage of our territory for land operations against Afghanistan, and we are against air strikes executed from the territory of Uzbekistan," Karimov said. He also said no U.S. special operations troops would be based in Uzbekistan.
"We are not ready for that," he said. Karimov didn't give specifics on the number of troops or aircraft involved or when they would begin arriving, saying that was "to the discretion of the U.S. forces."
Rumsfeld said America benefits from both Uzbekistani cooperation and Karimov's insights and the perspectives. Karimov had also announced intelligence sharing between the two nations would be "stepped up."
Uzbekistan is a strategically important country for the United States because of its location along Afghanistan's northern border. Afghanistan has emerged as the focal point for President Bush's war on terrorism because it is where Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, is believed to be hiding and operating terrorist training camps.
In their press conference, Karimov and Rumsfeld said there was no quid pro quo for America's use of Uzbekistani territory. "The two countries have agreed the problem of terrorism is a serious one," Rumsfeld said, "and we have worked out a series of arrangements that make sense from both of our standpoints."
Karimov agreed. "Uzbekistan has been witnessing the inhumane face of terror," he said. "We cannot afford standing aside, and we are taking part in these anti-terrorism operations that the international community called for."
As a last-minute addition to his itinerary, Rumsfeld was next heading to Ankara, Turkey, for high-level talks before returning to Washington early Oct. 6.