The former Soviet republic of Tajikistan agreed to let US forces use a large, Soviet-built air base outside the capital, Dushanbe. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that former Soviet republics in Central Asia could offer their bases to US forces. Putin specifically mentioned the airport at Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The Russian army also has a base in Dushanbe. However, that airport had drawbacks, since it is in a large city and is used for commercial flights.
In late September 2001 several news organizations reported that up to three US transport planes had landed at Dushanbe and had unloaded reconnaissance equipment and 200 troops. However, despite these reports, little evidence has come to light that would confirm the presence of these forces at Dushanbe.
The Government of Tajikistan was a supporter of Operation Enduring Freedom. Its primary contribution was the use of its international airport in Dushanbe for coalition refueling and basing. By June 2002, the US Air Force had refueled over 400 C-17 sorties in Dushanbe, with British and French air forces also refueling and basing at the airport.
Tajikistan had bases in the towns of Kulyab and Parkhar, about 60 miles from the Afghan border, which the anti-Taliban northern alliance rebels used when they flew supplies from Tajikistan.
Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, is located in the extreme west of the country, about a one-hour drive from the border with Uzbekistan. Dushanbe was formed in 1922, when three small settlements of 5,000 people were united. It became the capital when Tajikistan became an autonomous republic in 1924. The city lies in a sheltered river valley at 2,300 feet above sea level, below the Hissar Mountains. The Varzob and Kofarnihon Rivers flow through Dushanbe.
Because of its sheltered location, Dushanbe is often spared the more extreme weather conditions prevalent elsewhere in the region. Winters are similar to those in Washington, DC, with cool, damp weather and occasional snow. Spring is generally mild and rainy, while Tajik summers are hot and dry, with temperatures in some areas well over 100 °F. Autumn weather is generally pleasant and dry. In all seasons, temperatures can vary considerably during the course of the day.
Now a city of 700,000, Dushanbe in its center retains the atmosphere of its original planners in the 1920s - wide, tree-lined streets with mostly low-rise apartment houses and office buildings painted white or pastel colors. Although traffic has begun to pick up with increased availability of gasoline, it is still comparatively light. Because of the trees, walking or bicycle riding is pleasant much of the year.
Throughout the year, but especially in the spring and summer months, shoppers can purchase wonderful fruits and vegetables in Dushanbe at low cost. Fruits available in season include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, rhubarb; great cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, figs, apples, pomegranates, melons, persimmons, grapes, and glorious lemons. Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios are readily available. Pecans, or "American nuts" as they call them here, appear occasionally. Short grain rice and various kinds of grains and dried beans are available. There are beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, leaf lettuce, and many radishes and radish-like vegetables we have not yet properly identified. There are green and red sweet peppers and red chili peppers. Fresh herbs such as basil, mint, dill, chives, and coriander are abundant, but many herbs and vegetables popular in America (thyme, celery and broccoli, for example) are unknown here.
The most common local bread, "lepyoshka" is a round, flat wheat bread similar to pita. Regular white and whole-grain loaves are readily available, as are light, crusty baguettes from the Turkish cafe.
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