WASHINGTON, Jan 9: The United States, which has just established a foothold in Central Asia, is preparing to consolidate its military presence in the region and extend it for years, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Washington and its allies are building an air base in Kyrghyzstan, which will be used as a “transportation hub”, house up to 3,000 troops and accommodate warplanes and support aircraft, the report said.

Engineers are also improving runways, lighting, communications, storage and housing at bases in Uzbekistan and Pakistan where American forces are stationed, signaling a long-term commitment, or at least the ability to redeploy forces quickly, The Times said.

Many military analysts argue that a significant American military presence is needed around Afghanistan because the interim government does not seem intent on rooting out the remnants of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces, the report said.

But too large or too long-term an American military presence could alarm Russia and China to the north, and anger the Afghans, who often bridle at foreign military activity in their nation, The Times pointed out.

According to the report, the recent arrival of the 101st Airborne Division at Kandahar airport to relieve about 1,500 Marines there could presage a long US commitment to the base.

Unlike the Marines, Army troops are typically dispatched to hold territory for long periods — months, if not years, the report said.—AFP

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