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Central Command Sends Team to Examine Tajik Bases

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, Nov. 4, 2001 – A U.S. Central Command assessment team will visit Tajikistan to examine three military installations as possible areas to base U.S. troops battling terrorism in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmonov to enhance cooperation between his country and the United States in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Tajikistan borders Afghanistan.

"This visit is valuable to all of us," Rumsfeld said after the meeting. "The president intimately knows Afghanistan, the dynamics on the ground and the difficulties of the task."

"There is no question that Al Qaeda and Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan are target No. 1," Rumsfeld said during a press conference.

Both Rumsfeld and Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov said the discussions between the countries were moving forward. "The response has been very forthcoming," Rumsfeld said. "There will be assessments made as to what's appropriate and then those discussions will proceed."

Tajikistan already provides overflight privileges and provides some intelligence information on conditions inside Afghanistan.

Central Command Commander Army Gen. Tommy Franks visited the country in October and laid some of the groundwork for the Rumsfeld meeting.

Central Command is looking at three bases: Kulyab, Khojand and Turgan-Tiube. Tajikistan has a close relationship with Russia, whose 201st Motorized Infantry Division is at Kulyab. Overall, between 18,000 and 20,000 Russian troops are in the country. Tajikistan is about 85 percent Muslim, and, Tajik officials said, there is some concern that the war of terrorism will be confused with a war on Islam.

Rumsfeld said the United States would leave no troops in Afghanistan after the Taliban is defeated. He said the United Nations, the nations of the region and the Afghan people will ultimately decide what the post-Taliban government will look like.

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