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Uzbekistan rules out prospect of hosting US forces

US troops leave a plane as they arrive from Afghanistan at the Manas airbase in Uzbekistan in February 2009.

Uzbekistan has strongly rejected any possible stationing of US troops in the Central Asian country to purportedly combat terrorism in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the war-ravaged country.

"This is out of the question," Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said after US-based news outlet Politico reported Thursday that Pentagon officials intended to visit Uzbekistan this month to discuss the possibility of deploying forces for striking extremist positions in Afghanistan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said at a press briefing in Moscow that former Soviet states, including Uzbekistan, stand firm in their unwillingness to host US forces. 

Lavrov's comments came after the Wall Street Journal citing unnamed sources reported on Monday that Moscow and Washington were allegedly in talks discussing the possible use of Russian military bases in Central Asia by American troops.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who visited Russia this week, was told that the deployment of the US or the NATO infrastructure in the region is categorically unacceptable for Russia.

A Pentagon delegation is currently in Uzbekistan discussing with Uzbek authorities the possibility of deploying "over the horizon" counter-terrorism forces aiming to maintain the surveillance on Afghanistan and strike targets in this country if necessary. 

US Ambassador to Kazakhstan William Moser said at a news briefing on Tuesday that the US military does not yet have any specific plans for using Russian military bases in Central Asia in order to counter terrorism.

The latest developments come as United States is now reportedly going to increase drone surveillance and strikes in Afghanistan despite formally pulling out its troops.

The Taliban-ruled Afghan government has recently warned Washington that there would be “bad consequences” if the US-operated unmanned drones continued the violation of the country’s airspace.

The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban that followed US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw in a disastrous pullout. 

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 removed the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country. Two decades later, the Taliban have returned to power again.After the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, Russia held military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which share a border with Afghanistan.

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