U.S. military preparations continue in Uzbekistan

Blackhawk helicopters, infantrymen reach base

War On Terrorism

The World

October 08, 2001|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - More U.S. military personnel and equipment arrived at a former Soviet air base in Uzbekistan over the weekend, preparing for the American-led military campaign that began yesterday.

After a meeting Friday between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent, several U.S. C-17 cargo planes landed at the Khanabad air base outside Karshi, about 100 miles north of the Afghan border.

The equipment they carried included Blackhawk helicopters, which could be used for aid flights over the border or for search and rescue missions for downed pilots, said a U.S. government official familiar with the activity. "At this point, most of it is a logistics and air support package," the official said.

The cargo planes, which also carried an undisclosed number of Army infantrymen, brought at least the second wave of U.S. military personnel and equipment into Uzbekistan.

A few days before Rumsfeld's visit, the official said, a Special Operations Command headquarters group from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida arrived in two C-130 transport planes at Tuzel air base, outside Tashkent. After meetings with Uzbek officials, the group flew on to Khanabad.

The Special Operations Command is an element of the Central Command, which directs U.S. military operations in the region.

The Special Operations Command consists of elite members from all four branches of the armed forces. The headquarters contingent that arrived last week has served as an advance party, the official said.

Maj. Jay Steuck, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to discuss details and would only discuss troop movements and assignments in the broadest sense.

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