DUSHANBE (Reuters) - The United States plans to spend almost $10 million to build a training center for armed forces in Tajikistan, Washington’s ambassador to the Central Asian state said on Friday.
The United States is keen to bolster its influence and secure alliances in ex-Soviet Central Asia to guard against the threat of violence spreading from neighboring Afghanistan and maintain supply lines to NATO troops in the region.
U.S. ambassador Ken Gross told reporters that Washington hoped to sign a deal to build the training center by autumn this year, with the aim of opening it sometime in 2011.
The Karatag National Training Center, about 45 km (30 miles) from the capital Dushanbe, would be administered by the Tajik National Guards and open for all Tajik forces, he said.
Gross said that no U.S. troops would be stationed at the training center. “If requested, we might have people come in to help in training missions,” the ambassador said.
Tajikistan forms part of an overland supply corridor through Central Asia for NATO troops in Afghanistan, which has become more important in recent years as traditional routes through Pakistan came under fierce attack from Taliban insurgents.
Tajikistan suffered its own civil war in the 1990s, fueled by clan and ethnic rivalries and mobilizing militant Islamic forces. President Imomali Rakhmon confirmed his long hold on power in March parliamentary polls which the U.S. embassy said was marked by “widespread fraud and irregularities.”
The United States also operates a military air base in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov, writing by Robin Paxton; editing by Ralph Boulton