View Full Version : No Harm Seen in Loss of Base in Uzbekistan

01-08-05, 09:07
August 1, 2005

No Harm Seen in Loss of Base in Uzbekistan


WASHINGTON, July 31 - Senior American military officials said Sunday that the loss of access to an important air base in Uzbekistan could be offset without hurting combat operations and relief missions in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan formally ordered the United States to leave the air base within 180 days in protest over a United Nations operation on Friday to relocate Uzbek refugees who had fled during an uprising in May.

"We are and have been working a plan to adjust without K-2," one senior American commander in the region said in an e-mail message, referring to the Uzbek installation, Karshi-Khanabad Air Base.

A senior Air Force officer concurred, saying: "It's not a big deal, especially if they continue to grant us overflight rights. Even without the overflight, we're still O.K. It's just a longer routing going into Afghanistan."

The two officers spoke on condition of anonymity because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior officials have not formally approved any alternatives.

The eviction notice came at the end of a week in which Mr. Rumsfeld toured the region and received reassurances from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that the Pentagon could continue to use their air bases to support relief and counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

About 1,000 American forces use Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan for refueling missions and transporting troops, equipment and civilian aid to and from Afghanistan. American forces use Tajikistan for emergency landings and occasional refueling.

Asked last Sunday about the possible loss of the Uzbek base, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "We always think ahead. We'll be fine."

The military's Central Command, which is responsible for operations in Central Asia, has been drafting alternatives that would bring some C-130 transport planes now operating from Uzbekistan back to the United States and reposition other aircraft either in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries, the two senior officers said. "I fully expect Manas to pick up some of the load," the commander in the region said.

Air Force C-17 cargo planes flying missions into the region from Europe could also pick up some of the slack, the officers said.