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Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base
Camp Stronghold Freedom
Khanabad, Uzbekistan

Operations

As part of Soviet Operations in Afghanistan, the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan came into more active use. In late 1979 Soviet Air Force deployed Tu-16 bomber aircraft from Orsha to Khanabad, at Karshi, 125 miles north of the Afghan border. Other bombers were also deployed from the Ukrainian Priluki strategic aviation air base to Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. Soviet long-range bomber aircraft were first used in combat over Afghanistan on 10 June 1981, attacking the lazurite mines of Akhmad Shakh Masud. The next time long-range aviation bombers were used was during large-scale operations over Panjshir in 1984. Heavy bombers flying from Khanabad and Mary flew a single mission in the morning, following which targets were covered by thick clouds of dust from the bomb explosions. The overall effectiveness of these strikes turned out to be relatively low.

A treaty signed in March 1994 by Russia and Uzbekistan defined the terms of Russian assistance in training, allocation of air fields, communications, and information on air space and air defense installations, including Karshi-Khanabad. In 1995 almost all personnel in Uzbekistan's air force were ethnic Russians.

By early October 2001 TV crews had staked out 3 Uzbek bases, and had filmed a US C-130 transport plane at Khanabad. On 5 October 2001 Uzbekistan gave permission for US troops and aircraft to base operations in the country, with a US troop presence expected to eventually grow to several thousand, including special operations forces. About 1,000 light-infantry troops from the 10th Mountain Division left Fort Drum in New York for Uzbekistan. The US Air Force was expected to deploy F-15 and F-16 aircraft, as well as special operations combat search-and-rescue units.

Under an agreement reached during a visit by US Secretary of Defense Ronald Rumsfeld, Uzbekistan was allowing US forces to use Soviet-era military bases to support Operation Enduring Freedom. President Islam Karimov received security assurances, and an implied US commitment to ignore complaints about human rights violations in the country. The agreement distanced the country from its powerful neighbor, Russia.

By mid-October 2001 there were 3 layers of security for 5 km around Khanabad, with the outer 2 layers manned by Uzbek forces and the inner layer manned by US troops. As of mid-October 2001 about 1,000 members of the Army's 10th Mountain Division were deployed to the Uzbek air base at Khanabad, about 90 miles north of the Afghan border.

In June 2005 Uzbek President Islam Karimov curtailed US operations at K-2 in retaliation against American criticism of the shooting of hundreds of demonstrators in Andijan in May 2005. The Uzbek government prohibited nighttime operations, and placed limits on C-17 and other heavy transport aircraft. In response, the US shifted some operations from K-2, moving search-and-rescue planes to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and re-routing heavy cargo flights through Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan. The Uzbeks had complained that the heavy cargo aircraft were damaging the airfield's runway, and that the Americans had been unable to repair the damage.

In late July 2005, Uzbekistan formally terminated an agreement allowing the United States to use the Karshi-Kanabad (K2) Airbase in support of its military operations in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported that the United States had been given 180 days to vacate the facility, which it had used since October 2001 and reportedly housed approximately 800 personnel. The termination of the agreement followed criticism increased restrictions on the use of the base by teh Uzbek government, as well as rising tensions between the two countries, specifically criticism from the United States and its calls for an independent inquiry into the May 2005 clashes between Uzbek security forces and civilians in the city of Andijan. The United States withdrew all of the 1,750 troops that had been stationed at Karshi-Khanabad air base

In February 2009, the Kyrgyz government began the process of formally terminating its agreement with the United States for use of the Air Base at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Offers immediately came from Tajikistan and Kazakstan to negotiate the possible transit of non-lethal supplies to forces in Afghanistan. The United States was also reported to be looking at the potential to reopen operations at Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan.




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