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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. to Pay $23M for Use of Base

WASHINGTON -- Over congressional objections, the Pentagon intends to pay Uzbekistan almost $23 million for past use of its military base from which U.S. forces were recently told to leave, congressional and White House officials said.

"It's our practice to pay our bills," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, saying the payment was for "goods and services previously rendered." U.S. military operations are ongoing from the Karshi-Khanabad air base, he said, suggesting further payments may be required.

The issue has been intensely debated within the administration in recent weeks, but the Pentagon overrode State Department and congressional concerns about providing the funds to one of the world's most autocratic regimes, the officials said. In May, the Uzbek government put down protests in Andijan, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths, according to human rights groups.

In a strongly worded bipartisan protest, six senators sent a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying the Pentagon had notified Congress of the payment and reinforcing their objections to it.