Rumsfeld Calls Tajikistan 'Solid Partner' in Terror War
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, July 26, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today lauded the Republic of Tajikistan for its efforts in assisting the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against terrorism.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (far right) meets with Tajikistan officials July 26. Rumsfeld is touring parts of Central Asia to discuss bilateral military cooperation. The meetings between Rumsfeld and senior Tajik officials, including President Emomali Sharipovich Rahmonov, integrated talks about establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the continued fight against terrorists. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Tajiks "are solid partners in the global struggle against extremism and in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said during a news conference after attending meetings with senior Tajik officials here.
Rumsfeld flew into Tajikistan early this afternoon after meeting with senior Kyrgyzstan officials in Bishkek.
During the news conference, Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov recalled when Rumsfeld visited his country in November 2001, just as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan was getting ready to start.
Tajikistan quickly decided to join the United States and its allies to fight terrorists, Nazarov recalled. The Tajik government knew then that the Taliban in Afghanistan were harboring al Qaeda terrorists, he said, and that negatively affected security for Tajikistan and the region.
The Tajiks agreed to provide overflight permission for U.S. and other coalition aircraft, as well as aircraft refueling and emergency landing rights, Nazarov said. These practices continue today.
Today, "the Taliban have been driven from power," Rumsfeld said, and the Afghan people "have courageously elected the first popularly elected president in the 5,000-year history of the country."
Parliamentary and provincial elections in Afghanistan are slated for September, Rumsfeld said, noting that the demise of the Taliban has made Ccentral Asia more stable and secure.
Rumsfeld noted that common U.S. and Tajik interests "involve not only counterterrorism, but also counternarcotics, nonproliferation of dangerous weapons, and a common interest in the region's economic growth."
Today's meetings between Rumsfeld and senior Tajik officials, including President Emomali Sharipovich Rahmonov, Nazarov noted, included talks about "establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the continued fight against terrorist remnants."
Nazarov said today's meetings were focused on continuing the anti-terror war, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, border security, methods to eradicate drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, and other ways to improve political and economic security in the Ccentral Asian region.
The Tajik foreign minister expressed his gratitude to the United States for its role in the construction of a $28 million bridge that is being built across the Pyandzh River from Tajikistan to Afghanistan. The groundbreaking ceremony was held June 18.
The bridge project should "really contribute to the economic development of Afghanistan," Nazarov said, noting it also will "accelerate the trade and commercial development of the whole South Asian region."
Tajikistan is now assuming responsibility for patrolling its 1,400-kilometer border with Afghanistan. Narcotics traffickers from Afghanistan have used Tajikistan to transport illegal opiates. The United States is providing nearly $14 million to bolster Tajikistan's border security and counternarcotics programs.