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Gen. Lloyd Austin ()
U.S. Central Command is disputing reports in Russian and Uzbek media that the U.S. government is negotiating to open a military base in Uzbekistan.
Citing an Uzbek newspaper, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of CENTCOM, visited Uzbekistan to ask for permission to send military equipment and aircraft to the city of Termez, which is near Afghanistan.
But a spokesman for Austin said nothing of the kind occurred when Austin visited Uzbekistan on Tuesday and Wednesday during a routine trip to the region.
“Gen. Austin has no knowledge of any plans for a possible U.S. base in Uzbekistan,” said Army Maj. Brian Fickel. “He did not discuss any such options with the Uzbeks during his trip.”
During his trip, Austin met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and other Uzbek officials, but Austin did not discuss operations in neighboring Afghanistan, Fickel said.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Uzbekistan allowed the U.S. military to use Karshi-Khanabad air base to support operations in Afghanistan. However, after the U.S. government criticized Uzbekistan for killing hundreds of peaceful protesters, the Uzbek government told the U.S. military to leave in 2005.
The RIA Novosti story notes that Termez — the city where the U.S. allegedly wanted to establish a new base — is close to Afghanistan, implying that the U.S. wanted to launch operations into Afghanistan from there. However, Austin did not discuss operations in Afghanistan when he met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and other Uzbek officials, Fickel said.