Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

U.S. special forces set to deploy soon from Tajik bases
Kyodo News Service

DUSHANBE, Nov. 7 (Kyodo) - By: Kiyoshi Ota U.S. special forces will shortly deploy to the vicinity of the key Taliban-held northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif from air bases in Tajikistan, a senior Tajik Defense Ministry source said Wednesday.

The source told Kyodo News that the deployment would only be a ''small-scale'' one, but indicated that there is scope for larger deployments from Tajik territory over time.

The upcoming deployment would be the first from Tajik territory.

U.S. special forces sent into Afghanistan since the military campaign started Oct. 7 are believed to have mainly been deployed from bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan's neighbor to the west.

During U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Tajikistan on Saturday, the two sides discussed the possible use of three Tajik air bases by U.S. forces, including the former Soviet military airfield of Kulyab, situated only 96 kilometers from the Afghan border.

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday a U.S. military team was already in Tajikistan to assess the condition of the airfields, which also include Kurgan-Tyube in the south and Khujand in the north, to see whether they could serve to access Afghanistan from the north.

The U.S. air campaign is currently relying on Navy carrier-based warplanes and long-range bombers flying in from the south of Afghanistan over Pakistani airspace.

The Tajik source also revealed having heard from U.S. military sources that a 60-member contingent of U.S. special forces is already deployed in the vicinity of Kabul, the Afghan capital, and will be significantly expanded in the coming days.

The U.S. military has acknowledged that it has small contingents of special forces in Afghanistan to liaison with the Northern Alliance of anti-Taliban Afghan forces, provide targeting information for the U.S. bombers flying into Afghan airspace and assist with supply drops and food distribution.

While expressing immediate support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, the Tajik government, fearing an angry backlash from its predominantly Muslim population, had initially limited its cooperation with the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan to the rendering of ''humanitarian'' assistance.

Tajikistan is still emerging from the aftermath of a civil war that ravaged the country, and former Islamic rebels make up 20% of the its coalition government.

But on condition that the U.S. provides Tajikistan with financial assistance, the former Soviet republic, which has been dependent on defense and financial assistance from Russia, has decided to begin cooperating with Washington in the military sphere as well.

Back to the Top    Next Article