US to keep military base in Kyrgyzstan

The United States has won assurances from Kyrgyzstan that Washington can keep its military base in the former Soviet Central Asian state as long as the situation in Afghanistan required it.

    Rumseld (L) was confident after talks with Kyrgyz officials

    Earlier this month, members of a group uniting Russia, China and former Soviet Central Asian states questioned the need for Washington's bases in Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring Uzbekistan, set up in 2001 to support US-led operations in Afghanistan.

    "The presence of the [US] base fully depends on the situation in Afghanistan," acting Kyrgyz Defence Minister Ismail Isakov told a joint news conference with visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    "Today the minister (Rumsfeld) rightly noted that the situation in Afghanistan has not finally got back to normal," Isakov said.

    Kyrgyzstan, which saw revolt bring down the previous government in March, is under strong pressure from its ally Russia, which is uneasy about the US military presence in a region that Moscow considers its sphere of influence.

    Rumsfeld, who appeared confident after talks with Kyrgyz President-elect Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Isakov, later told troops at the Manas base: "I wouldn't pack your bags."

    After securing election victory earlier this month, Bakiyev had said: "We may proceed with the issue of whether it is expedient

    to still deploy military forces of the United States [in

    Kyrgyzstan]. 

    "Time will show

    when and how it (withdrawal) happens."

    SOURCE: AFP


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