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The United States said on Tuesday it would pay Uzbekistan nearly $23 million for
use of an air base in the Central Asian country which is a hub for U.S. operations
in Afghanistan but from which it is being evicted, although some members of the
U.S. Congress protested the payment, Reuters reported.
Uzbekistan in July gave the United States 180 days to leave the Soviet-era
Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, called K-2, following U.S. criticism of the Uzbek
government’s violent suppression of demonstrators in the town of Andijan
The payment that the Pentagon intends to make would cover use of the base from
January 2003 through this past March, the Pentagon said. A previous payment
of $15.7 million was made to cover use of the base from September 2001 through
December 2002, the Pentagon said.
“Well, it certainly is the Defense Department’s practice to pay
our bills. Uzbekistan has been a good partner in the war on terror, particularly
... with respect to our ongoing operations in Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesman
Bryan Whitman was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The United States is continuing to use the base despite restrictions placed
by the Uzbek government on nighttime flights and the size of aircraft at K-2,
the Pentagon said.
Uzbekistan allowed U.S. forces to use the base shortly after the September
11, 2001, attacks on America orchestrated by the al Qaeda network, which had
been harbored by the now-deposed Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.
Whitman said the facility has helped the United States prosecute the war against
the Taliban and al Qaeda and provide humanitarian relief in northern Afghanistan.