TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – The U.S. Army dispatched about a thousand infantry soldiers to this country bordering Afghanistan Friday, part of a massive buildup for a military response to the terrorist attacks on the United States.
The troops, from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., are the first U.S. grounds forces known to be deployed in the region.
On Friday at Fort Drum, about 75 miles north of Syracuse, a spokesman repeated an earlier statement that elements of the divison stand ready to assist President Bush in his anti-terrorism efforts. He declined to elaborate.
A senior U.S. official traveling with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the troops were en route from the United States to Uzbekistan Friday. They will provide security for other U.S. forces, officials have said.
The disclosure came as the president of Uzbekistan announced he had granted permission for American forces to use an air base in his country for search-and-rescue missions.
At a news conference with Rumsfeld, President Islam Karimov said the air base could be used by U.S. transport planes, helicopters and troops. But U.S. forces will not be allowed to launch air or ground attacks from Uzbekistan.
Karimov also said U.S. special operations soldiers would not be allowed in the country. "We are not quite ready for this," he said.
Karimov said a legal document spelling out the specifics of this arrangement, including what he calls guarantees for his country's security, was being completed and eventually would be made public.
"We have no secret deals," the president said.
Rumsfeld told reporters he had expressed President Bush's appreciation for Uzbekistan's cooperation in the campaign against terrorism.
Rumsfeld, visiting the Middle East and Central Asia to build support for an international battle against terrorism, said Thursday the battle may involve less use of military force than is commonly assumed.
He offered the strongest suggestion yet that while the U.S. military will play a role, its contribution may be relatively small. Some also believe military action may not come soon. The French defense minister said no retaliation is expected for several weeks.
Rumsfeld did not rule out the possibility of taking military action to ensure that the air defense forces of the Taliban regime that rules most of Afghanistan not pose a threat to the delivery of American food aid to parts of the country. He said Thursday he was certain U.S. military planes would make airdrops of food, but said details were being worked out in Washington.
The Taliban militia is harboring Osama bin Laden, who is accused of being responsible for the devastating attacks Sept. 11.
President Bush on Thursday committed $320 million in humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan.
The United States has assembled more than 30,000 troops in the region around Afghanistan, including two aircraft carrier battle groups, a contingent of Marines, hundreds of land-based warplanes and preparations for Army special operations soldiers to conduct hit-and-run raids inside Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld seemed to indicate that the first purpose of that growing military might is to apply pressure -- as the freezing of terrorist groups' money is applying a financial squeeze -- rather than to launch a major attack. He stressed that it could take unexpected turns, but would eventually succeed.
The administration hopes that pressure applied over a sustained period will dry up the terrorists' sources of money, their pool of recruits and their means to hide in places like Afghanistan.
"It undoubtedly will prove to be a lot more like a cold war than a hot war," Rumsfeld said in an interview in his Cairo hotel room after a 14-hour day of consultations with the leaders of Oman and Egypt.
He alluded to the Cold War between the United States and its Western allies on one hand and the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies on the other, a struggle between capitalism and communism that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual collapse of Soviet communism.
"In the Cold War it took 50 years, plus or minus. It did not involve major battles. It involved continuous pressure. It involved cooperation by a host of nations ... and when it ended, it ended not with a bang but through internal collapse," he said. "That threat to the world just disintegrated from inside."
The first target of the U.S.-led campaign is Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network that the Bush administration says was behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
At a news conference Thursday after his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Rumsfeld made clear that the administration does not intend to stop after disposing of bin Laden.
"If he were gone the problem would remain," he said. "There are any number of lieutenants in the al-Qaida organization and there are any number of other terrorist networks that exist, all of which are a danger to free people."
Asked why, then, the United States would launch a military attack if it would not end the threat of terrorism, Rumsfeld replied, "I haven't said we are undertaking military action." He said he was being realistic in saying that there's no way to predict what it might take to root out the terrorists.
"The important thing is to see that we put enough pressure on these terrorists, and the people who harbor terrorists, through a variety of means, over a sustained period, so that they have to alter their behavior and they have to move from where they are and they have to try to do things differently."