US, Uzbek had secret alliance before Sept 11

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http://www.timesofindia.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=611919343

ASHINGTON: The United States and Uzbekistan have been conducting joint covert operations against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and Osama Bin Laden, chief suspect in the terror attacks in America, for two to three years, officials from the two countries have revealed.

"The most significant advance came more than a year ago with stepped-up intelligence cooperation between the two countries in an effort to track and undermine Osama Bin Laden," media reports here quoted the US and Uzbek officials as saying.

At the same time, the US special forces, masters in operating covertly behind enemy lines, began to work more overtly with Uzbek military on training missions, they said.

However, "our cooperation extends back to two or three years," said Rustam Jumaev, chief spokesman for Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

"The intensified interaction with Uzbekistan reflected the conviction of the US that previous trrorist attacks against American targets originated from Bin Laden's Afghan refuge. The US-Uzbek cooperaton deepened after the US embassy bombings (in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998) and again after last year's attack on the USS Cole in Yemen," he said in an interview to the 'Washington Post'.

The secret partnership which already existed became public on October 5, when Karimov met US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Tashkent and announced the US could station ground troops, airplanes and helicopters at an Uzbek air base.

More than 1,000 US troops have already arrived in Uzbekistan and 1,000 more are expected, according to Pentgon officials.

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