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U.S. Rejects Setting Central Asia Withdrawal Date

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan 6 July 2005 -- The United States has rejected a call by the six-country Shanghai Cooperation Organization to set a date for the withdrawal of American and coalition forces from bases in Central Asia.

U.S.-led military forces were deployed to air bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan after the 11 September 2001 attacks to support antiterrorist military operations in Afghanistan. French air force personnel have been based in Tajikistan.

State Department Spokesman Scott McCormack told reporters that the American military presence in the region is determined by bilateral agreements and that the United States and the Central Asian countries have concluded there are benefits to both sides from the basing arrangements.

McCormack said U.S. and allied forces are in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan government. The Shanghai group -- which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan -- called yesterday during a summit in Astana for a deadline to be set for the withdrawal of the U.S. and its coalition allies from the Central Asian states, saying the group believes there has been a decline in active fighting in Afghanistan.