The Daily Times / Pakistan – 2004-12-02 00:13:39
KABUL (November 28, 2004) — The US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan are working on a military base near the country’s western border with Iran.
Locals told the Pajhwok news agency that US forces have been sketching and surveying the land for two months for a 300-hectare airbase in the desert area of Holang, in Ghorian district of Herat province, just 45 kilometres from the Iranian frontier.
Some military commentators believe the development could be linked to rising tensions between the United States and Iran, but the US military and the Afghan government say the base is being built for the Afghan National Army.
The Combined Forces’ Command in Kabul confirmed that it is building the base, but strongly rejected the suggestion that it would be only for the coalition forces.
“The US government is building a military base in Ghorian in order to provide transportation facilities for the Afghan National Army,” the press office told Pajhwok on Saturday. It declined to comment on whether the base might be seen as a threat by Iran, or how long it would take to complete the project.
The US Provincial Reconstruction Team in Herat said the base would be used for training Afghan National Army soldiers.
There has been no reaction from Iran so far. “We will express our view after contacting relevant authorities inside my country, who will assess this issue,” Mohammad Ali Najafi, the Iranian consul in Herat, said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence in Kabul said it was not aware of this issue. The presidential spokesman, Javid Ludin, commented: “The coalition forces have the permission to act against terrorism and for the peace and stability of Afghanistan, and to build a base for that purpose.”
He added that no action will be taken without agreement from the government.
Some believe the construction of a base that close to the border could provoke Iranian opposition.
“Creation of a base in a place completely dominating Iranian airspace could provoke an argument from Iran,” said Gen Nader Azemi, a commander of the ANA in Herat. But he praised the action as good for security in Herat, in addition to providing full control over the shared border of Afghanistan with Iran.
Local residents confirmed that the US military has been working on a base, with some of them supporting the plan, but others fear the US forces.
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