The U.S. is planning to conduct an evaluation of the plane to see if they’re flyable, the official mentioned. The objective is to supply quite a lot of plane to the Uzbek and Tajik governments in trade for a casual settlement to “deepen our safety relationships” on border safety and counterterrorism, the official mentioned.

The deal might embody something from elevated intelligence sharing to, within the long-term, basing troops or plane in these international locations as a regional staging publish for maintaining a tally of terrorist exercise in Afghanistan — one thing the Biden administration tried and failed to arrange before the withdrawal. Each international locations border Afghanistan and are a lot nearer than the American bases a whole lot of miles away within the Center East the U.S. navy depends on for entry to the nation.

However for now, it’s extra possible the settlement would contain entry to data the Uzbeks and Tajiks have about terrorist networks in Afghanistan.

“If I provide you with an airplane, then I name you and say, ‘Hey, are you able to inform that man who has a cousin in Afghanistan to go have a look at one thing’ — that is likely to be the character of the connection. That’s a hypothetical,” the senior DoD official mentioned. “It may not be that I need to fly from there, nevertheless it is likely to be, do I’ve entry to networks of those who have entry into Afghanistan?”

The Biden administration touted the U.S. navy’s means to conduct “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism operations after American troops left Afghanistan final August. The U.S. has since performed just one counterterrorism strike since then, a drone mission that killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in July.

Because the Taliban overran Kabul final summer season, Afghan air pressure pilots flew about 25 p.c of the entire usable plane — 46 whole — to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, based on a 2022 report assessing the collapse of the Afghan government. The plane included C-208 utility plane, A-29 Tremendous Tucano gentle assault plane, in addition to Mi-17, Mi-25 and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, based on satellite images analyzed by the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research. Many of the planes had been equipped by Washington to construct up the aptitude of the Afghan air pressure.

Each Central Asian international locations are “definitely very ” in maintaining these plane, the senior DoD official mentioned.

As for any form of basing settlement, the problem isn’t on the desk in the mean time, a DoD spokesperson mentioned.

“DoD will not be presently searching for any basing or everlasting presence of U.S. navy forces in Central Asia for any goal,” spokesperson Lt. Col. Rob Lodewick mentioned.

Within the short-term, it’s unlikely both nation would permit the U.S. to make use of their territory for basing given their shut ties to Russia. Uzbekistan cooperated extra carefully with the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults, leasing the Karshi-Khanabad air base to the Individuals from 2001 to 2005 for Afghanistan operations. However that settlement was shut down amid unrest and strain from the Kremlin. Uzbekistan additionally has shut ties to the Taliban, and Uzbek society views any intervention within the Afghanistan battle negatively.

Additional, any U.S.-basing settlement in Uzbekistan would require a change to Uzbek regulation, which stipulates that the nation can not host any overseas navy base on its territory.

Tajikistan, too, has a historical past of working with Washington, together with allowing U.S. navy planes to refuel on the nation’s airports after the 9/11 assaults. However extra not too long ago, relations with Washington have been frosty, and the economic system can also be closely depending on each Russia and China. On the navy entrance, Tajikistan is a member of the Collective Safety Treaty Group, a navy alliance of chosen former Soviet states, and already hosts a Russian navy base on its territory.

Nonetheless, of the Central Asian states, Tajikistan is “by far essentially the most cooperative” on counterterrorism, the congressional aide mentioned, noting that the nation collaborates with the U.S. on border safety and coaching.

A State Division spokesperson didn’t reply to a request for remark.

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