DUSHANBE -- U.S. and Tajik officials have marked the start of construction of a military training center near Dushanbe that is being funded by Washington, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Ken Gross and Tajik National Guard Commander General Rajabali Rahmonali laid the cornerstone of the live-fire training building at Tajikistan's National Training Center at Qaratogh, about 50 kilometers west of the Tajik capital.
The $3.1 million project is being paid for by the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) and is scheduled to be completed later this year.
Gross said "this project demonstrates the U.S. commitment to supporting Tajikistan's efforts to stem the flow of illegal narcotics and to defend the nation against terrorists." He said the facility will support the training of Tajik counternarcotics and counterterrorism units.
Asked about reports in some Tajik newspapers that the center will become a U.S. military base, Gross said "this [facility] is strictly for the Tajik military and there is no American component to that."
Rahmonali said "the main purpose of this training center is improving the training for special units of Tajikistan's power structures in their fight against terrorism, drug smuggling, and kidnappings."
He said special military units from Afghanistan and possibly other neighboring countries could train at the new facility in Qaratogh.
The U.S. has previously sponsored projects to support Tajikistan's counternarcotics and border-security efforts -- including the modernization of border crossings along the Tajik-Afghan border and providing radios, vehicles, and training for border guards, police, and customs officials.