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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Military Downplays Base Eviction

WASHINGTON -- Senior U.S. military officials said Sunday that the loss of access to an important air base in Uzbekistan could be offset without hurting combat operations and relief missions in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan formally ordered the United States to leave the air base within 180 days in protest over a UN operation on Friday to relocate Uzbek refugees who had fled during an uprising in May.

"We are and have been working a plan to adjust without K-2," one senior U.S. commander in the region said Sunday in an e-mail message, referring to the Uzbek installation, Karshi-Khanabad air base.

A senior Air Force officer concurred, saying: "It's not a big deal, especially if they continue to grant us overflight rights. Even without the overflight, we're still OK. It's just a longer routing going into Afghanistan."

The military's Central Command, which is responsible for operations in Central Asia, has been drafting alternatives that would bring some C-130 transport planes now operating from Uzbekistan back to the United States and reposition other aircraft either in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries, the two senior officers said. Air Force C-17 cargo planes flying missions into the region from Europe could also pick up some of the slack, the officers said.