U-S planes have landed in southern Uzbekistan, hours after Taleban gunners in Kabul fired on one or more aircraft flying over the Afghan capital.
The planes in Uzbekistan are believed to be transporting the vanguard of a ground force that will take part in U-S operations in Afghanistan. Uzbek officials say at least three planes have arrived, though it is unclear at which airport they landed.
One-thousand American troops are expected to be deployed at a southern base in the Central Asian country. Permission to use the base was secured by U-S Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who visited the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on Friday. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has said the airfield would be used for search and rescue missions, but not for attacks against Afghanistan.
The Taleban has threatened to invade Uzbekistan if the nation participates in a U-S led attack. Officials say 10-thousand soldiers have been deployed to the border of the two countries.
Earlier today (Saturday), the Taleban fired anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles at unidentified aircraft over Kabul, but did not appear to hit anything. A Taleban official says the Taleban believes at least one of the aircraft was a U-S spy plane.
The Pentagon has not commented on the events in Uzbekistan and Kabul, in keeping with its policy of not discussing operational details in the U-S military buildup around Afghanistan.
In another development, the U-S military has launched a satellite believed capable of closely monitoring activities in Afghanistan from hundreds of kilometers up in space.
The Titan (Four-B) rocket lifted off from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California Friday, carrying a payload commissioned by the U-S Defense Department's National Reconnaissance Office. That office is said to specialize in gathering pictures and electronic data, such as telephone conversations, from long distances.