Kazakhstan today became the first ex-Soviet state to promise practical support for the U.S. military attack onAfghanistan. The president offered its strategically vital aerodromes, military bases and airspace.
The region could be a vital staging area for the attacks, which the U.S. says is harboring its prime suspect in thestrikes on New York and Washington, Osama bin Ladin.
Meanwhile, conflicting reports swirled around much of Central Asia today as to whether U.S. troops had already landedin the region. The Russian Interfax news agency, quoting unidentified sources, said three U.S. Air Force transportplanes had arrived in Uzbekistan this weekend carrying about 200 U.S. troops and reconnaissance equipment. Russia’sRTR television also reported the arrival of U.S. forces in Uzbekistan. But a spokesman for Uzbek President refused toconfirm reports about the U.S. planes’ arrival.
In neighboring Tajikistan, President Emomali Rakhmonov said his country was also willing to cooperate. There areunconfirmed media reports that U.S. forces have landed there as well.
President Bush consulted with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend. Putin voiced readiness to cooperatewith U.S. military plans. In particular, a US official said Washington has been assured that Moscow would not opposeany cooperation between the United States and Central Asian nations which have collective security agreements withRussia.
But Russia is concerned that NATO forces will permanently root themselves in the lucrative Central Asian region, andthat the operation could destabilize the region.
- Fred Weir, correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.
- Geoffrey Sea, New York-based writer who has lived in Central Asia and is currently writing a book aboutnuclear issues in the region.