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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security the Key as Americans Construct Terrorist-Proof Base

KARSHI, Uzbekistan -- All day long the trucks come and go, ferrying gravel to the Khanabad air base.

Secrecy is the byword outside these former Soviet runways, but some things are self-evident from the traffic going in and the word trickling out. A construction effort is under way, and the commanders inside are taking care not to repeat mistakes that in the past allowed terrorists to kill scores of American service members away from the front lines.

Last month the Green Berets and units from the 10th Mountain Division arrived to take part in the war against the Taliban.

The untold tons of gravel that followed, which truck drivers said was being used for mixing concrete for a large American compound under construction inside the base, is one of many elements of a security plan that only a few years ago would have been unlikely.

Inside Khanabad, earthen walls have been built to protect people and equipment from shock waves and shrapnel, obstacles have been installed to slow vehicular approach and sentries have been assigned to check trucks and cars for weapons and bombs.

The Americans have been working closely with Uzbek police agencies to share intelligence and to ensure that approaches to the base are under observation and armed guard.

That degree of vigilance has not always been in effect.

After a truck bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut killed 241 Marines and sailors in 1983, a government commission excoriated the institutional failures that allowed Marines to billet in a vulnerable building that was guarded by sentries with unloaded rifles.

Yet terrorists were able to repeat the act in 1996, when a truck bomb exploded outside the Air Force housing complex at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The blast killed 19 servicemen and wounded hundreds more.

Military officers and defense officials said the investigation of the 1996 bombing had set in motion much of the intense security posture that is evident today.