Pentagon stirs tensions in foreign base shuffle
To fight the terror war, US wants far-flung bases for more mobile military. But some nations balk at US footprint.
In the past week, the United States has seen both the promise and the peril of its plan to undertake the biggest reorganization of American overseas military might since the end of World War II.
As the Pentagon transforms its military to meet the more flexible needs of the war on terror, it has also begun to recast the footprint of its overseas bases, and nowhere has this been more obvious than in the remote Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
For more than three years, they have allowed the United States to use a pair of austere airfields to provide crucial support for troops in Afghanistan, and they have served as models of how America will wage its wars in the future. Yet even as Kyrgyzstan reaffirmed its commitment to the United States for the duration of the Afghan war last week, Uzbekistan sent US forces an eviction notice.
It is a glimpse of what awaits the Pentagon as it spreads beyond the stability of cold-war bases in Europe and the Far East. New alliances with nations from Southeast Asia to the Horn of Africa promise quick access to the remotest corners of the globe, but they could increasingly link American security to the whims of fickle allies and controversial regimes.
"We're going to be fighting this global war against irregular forces in much different places than we were willing to fight in the past," says Robert Work, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments here. "And in [these places] there are no long-term allies."
For some time, Uzbekistan had been among the staunchest of US allies, using its ties to America to leverage power in a region dominated by Russia and China. Soon after Sept. 11, Uzbek authorities welcomed US forces to the Karshi-Khanabad base for the war in Afghanistan. Yet when the Bush administration called for an international inquiry into the deaths of at least 173 political dissidents in May, the relationship soured.