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Tuzel, Uzbekistan

As of mid-October 2001 airfields in Uzbekistan already hosted as many as 3,000 US troops. The 140-kilometer border with Afghanistan made Uzbekistan attractive to the US military. The country has several military air bases, including Kokaida, Khanabad [near the southern town of Karshi], Chirchik [40 kilometers east of Tashkent], and Tuzel [in the suburbs of Tashkent].

Uzbekistan has an air and ground forces base at Kokaidy, about a dozen miles from the border. One of the largest Soviet bases for its Afghan war was near Termez, an Uzbek city on the Afghan border. That airfield has been turned over to civilian control but is still believed to be suitable for military operations. Being so near the Afghan border could pose a security problem. The ancient Uzbek desert city of Termez has long been the invaders' gateway to Afghanistan. By October 2001 it was sealed tight to protect against the threat of Taliban attack or an outpouring of Afghan refugees. US troops were deployed at the Khanabad air base about 200 kilometers away. The Americans kept a low profile, and it was impossible to know exactly what they were doing.

On 21 September 2001 an Uzbek official reportedly confirmed that planes carrying reconnaissance equipment were based at the Tuzel air base in the suburbs of Tashkent. On 23 September 2001 it was reported that two US military C-130 cargo aircraft landed at the military airfield near Tashkent. It was reported that one of the aircraft soon left Uzbekistan after unloading some equipment. A group of U.S. servicemen was seen at the airfield, which was heavily guarded by Uzbek troops. Later, a single US C-141 cargo plane has landed at the same airbase.

The CIA's unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft, armed with Hellfire missiles, began operating in late 2000 out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.



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