Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected president Almazbek Atambayev criticized a U.S. military base located in the country as “very dangerous” for the nation. Kyrgyzstan underwent a violent and massive revolution in 2010, its second in history, leading to the toppling of former President Bakiyev who was long criticized for his violations of human rights while in power. Kyrgyzstan held elections earlier this year in October with an astounding number of 83 candidates.
Interim President Roza Otunbayeva declined to participate in the elections while others including the now president and then Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev ran for the presidency of the politically unstable country.
Atambayev announced that he gave visiting United States Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake an ultimatum: Disarm the military base at the Manas Transit Center (on the outskirts of the capital city of Bishkek) and leave the country by 2014 or cooperate with Russian authorities in modifying the base into a civilian airport by the year 2014.
Atambayev stressed that he was not moving against the U.S. military base due to Russian pressure but because of common sense.
According to Atambayev and many others, the ~150 million U.S. dollars given to Kyrgyzstan by the U.S. government isn’t “enough” to balance out the “dangers” of hosting a military base that could be the site of future attacks carried out by either terrorists or even Iran.
Atambayev is basically saying there will be no more extensions for the lease on the base and that a civilian airport should be built so that the site does not become a place of hostilities harming nearby civilians. He added that the U.S. will have non-military access to the airport after the end of the modifications.
Kyrgyzstan is in a unique and important strategic position for the world’s superpowers as it is the only country in a vital Central Asian area playing host to a Russian military base and an American military base.
The former Kyrgyz government wanted to shut the U.S. military base down in 2009 prior to the 2010 revolution because of a better Russian deal but was convinced by a new U.S. deal laden with more money to back off.
When the revolution occurred in 2010, both Russian and American governments were anxious over the safety of their bases in the hostile and unstable region but were assuaged after the danger passed the bases by.
The interim government extended the lease on the U.S. military base by another year and then to 2014 soon after.
The U.S. base with its current population of approximately 1,500 workers has been in existence for over 10 years. It was originally set up to supply and reinforce the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Since then, it has become a major hub of military supplies and fuel for nearby American and NATO forces.
On the surface, there seem to be no problems with the current Kyrgyz government’s wishes as the U.S. is planning to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, the mentioned year when the lease on the military base expires.
(Cover Photo: Defense Technology News)