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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Target: Terrorism - Donald Rumsfeld to Visit Uzbekistan Today

Aired October 5, 2001 - 06:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we are waiting for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to land any minute now in Uzbekistan, Afghan's neighbor. Uzbekistan will be critical to any sort of special ops, any sort of special ground attack on Afghanistan.

CNN's Alessio Vinci is reporting from Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Uzbekistan is the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's last stop. He will meet with Islam Karimov, the president here, and the two will discuss ways to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and forge some kind of military alliance. But the main issue here, of course, will be whether the U.S. will be able to deploy ground troops to this country.

Uzbekistan, it is a strategy located country in the region. It shares a short border with Afghanistan, about 80 miles long, but it has several former Soviet military air bases that the U.S. could (INAUDIBLE) use to launch military operations into Afghanistan or set up perhaps here some rescue -- search and rescue teams. Uzbekistan has already pledged to help the United States in its fight against terrorism. It has made its airspace available, and now, of course, the main issue that will be discussed later today is whether ground troops can be deployed here.

Senior U.S. administration official tell CNN in Washington that Uzbekistan has been priorly requesting the U.S. to set up and maintain some bases here in Uzbekistan even after a possible or probable Afghani -- military operation into Afghanistan. The reason for this the U.S. administration official tell CNN is because they want to make sure that they -- Uzbekistan wants to make sure that it is protected against any kind of retaliation attacks from terrorist groups from across the border in Afghanistan and, of course, also they say that protect themselves against Russia.

So we can expect, but the major issue here is a security issue here discussed between Karimov and Secretary Rumsfeld is a security guarantee. Uzbekistan is willing to help, but they want to know for how long the United States is willing to remain engaged in this region even after a military operation is completed.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, reporting from Tashkent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's find out even more on Uzbekistan by going to Donna Kelley and find out some more about the important role that it will play in the fight against terrorism -- Donna.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Catherine and Carol, thanks very much.

Former Soviet republic likely will be the base for special operations forces and other U.S. troops which do rapid extraction missions in Afghanistan and they will also provide security for U.S. Air Force fighters. And then even after the mission in Afghanistan might be over, a senior administration official told CNN that the Uzbek government would like the United States to stay. As you just were hearing, even Alessio Vinci, who's there in the capital of Tashkent, talk about that a little bit more, too.

They'd like to have them set up bases and keep them there to protect against terrorists who may come across the border and from Russia. Though the presidents of Uzbekistan and Russia have had phone conversations on what's going on in Afghanistan, both countries are concerned about terrorists in their own countries and that U.S. strikes could send refugees just flooding into the region and destabilize them. You might even remember back in February of 1999, the capital, Tashkent, where Alessio was, that was rocked by a series of explosions followed by arrests and executions. Russia has initially said that it would support the coalition against terrorism, providing airspace for humanitarian operations and weapons to the Afghan opposition.

We want to look at where the country sits. It is north of Afghanistan. As we were telling you earlier, it has an 80-mile border and it's slightly larger than California. There are six army bases with 130,000 troops, 7 artillery and armor brigades and 10 infantry brigades. The air force has 11 bases, 5,000 forces and they have transport, attack and fighter jets, security forces, also internal and border troops, the National Guard. You know what, though, there's no navy. It's doubly landlocked which means that there are at least two nations between the country and a coastline. Only two countries in the world, by the way, are doubly landlocked, Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein, so only two countries doubly landlocked. The country mainly flat to rolling desert has the mountains of Kazakstan and Tajikistan to the east.

As we say, landlocked so no coastline, though the Aral Sea is in the country. The Aral Sea, though, drying up and is contaminated with pesticides and industrial waste and the natural salt blows in, too. We have some pictures that we found for you to show how the Aral Sea has chanced from 1973 to 1987 and to 2000. So you can see how it's shrinking from this pollution and the natural salt that blows in.

Very dry and warm in the summer. Winter is quite cold but usually sunny and short. And there are large reserves of oil and natural gas is one of the biggest exports. The Uzbek government, in fact, would like to get international investment to develop pipelines for both. It's a large producer of gold and what's called white gold, as in cotton, and cotton, it's now the world's third largest cotton exporter.

Taliban has warned Uzbekistan not to cooperate with the United States in any attacks so the president of Uzbekistan has asked for security guarantees from the United States and the United Nations.

Back to you, Carol.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Donna, good big picture there of Uzbekistan.

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