TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – The Uzbek government won backing from the country's upper house on Friday for ordering the United States to withdraw troops from the Central Asian nation.
The 93 Senators present voted unanimously for a resolution supporting the government's July 29 order giving the United States six months to vacate the Karshi-Khanabad airbase. The airbase in the country's south has been crucial for U.S.-led anti-terror operations in neighboring Afghanistan.
Observers said the order could be connected to a U.S. decision to join international demands for an independent investigation into a bloody crackdown on unarmed demonstrators in an eastern Uzbek city in May. One of the senators accused the United States of fueling extremism.
"We know that fundamentalist moods arise wherever U.S. bases appear. Enemies of the United States appear wherever there is a U.S. military presence, and we don't want to be caught in-between," Kashkadarya region governor Nuritdin Zainiyev (search) said before the vote.
The head of the Senate's foreign relations committee and the country's former foreign minister, Sadyk Safayev (search), said the people of Kashkadarya demanded the troops leave, alleging they have caused environmental damage.
He also said U.S. troops must leave because the active stage of operations in Afghanistan was over.
The United States and other Western countries harshly criticized Uzbekistan for using force against unarmed civilians in Andijan on May 13 and called for an international investigation, which the government has rejected.
Uzbekistan (search) issued the demand for the U.S. withdrawal last month just hours after hundreds of Uzbeks who had fled to Kyrgyzstan after the Andijan uprising were relocated to Romania, a staunch U.S. ally, by the United Nations refugee agency.