updated 11/21/2005 10:51:55 AM ET 2005-11-21T15:51:55

The U.S. military on Monday completed its withdrawal from an air base in Uzbekistan that has been an important hub for American military operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy said.

In July, hard-line President Islam Karimov ordered the U.S. troops to leave the base within six months after Washington joined international condemnation of a bloody government crackdown in the eastern city of Andijan that human rights groups say killed hundreds of civilians.

The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent said the military attache reported that the last plane had left the base in Karshi-Khanabad.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Carpenter told the AP by telephone from Washington that the withdrawal has been taking place on a gradual basis in the past several months.

“Since midsummer, there was a continuos relocation of the U.S. military personnel and aircraft to other parts of the region to support the operation in Afghanistan,” Carpenter said.

“The drawdown has progressed steadily and until last week there was less than 200 personnel making preparations for a handover,” he said.

The Pentagon spokesman could not immediately confirm that the last U.S. plane had left Uzbek soil.

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