Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Kyrgyzstan unrest: another headache for America’s AFPAK war

April 8, 2010
(U.S. soldiers inside an aircraft waiting to take off from Manas - Shamil Zhumatov)

(U.S. soldiers inside an aircraft waiting to take off from Manas - Shamil Zhumatov)

Some 50,000 U.S., multinational and coalition troops moved through a U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan last month on their way to Afghanistan as part of the surge, along with millions of gallons of fuel for the war effort, according to the U.S. department of defence.

It tells you just how pivotal Manas, the last remaining U.S. base in Central Asia, is to U.S. operations in Afghanistan just as the coalition prepares to launch an offensive in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. operations at the base appeared unaffected by the political unrest in Bishkek.

On Thursday, Kyrgyzstan’s opposition said it has taken over the government of the impoverished Central Asian state after at least 65 people were killed in violent protests that forced the president to flee the capital.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev had fled to his southern power base following the protests triggered by discontent over corruption and rising prices.

A change of leadership in Bishkek could complicate the base agreements. Last year, Kyrgyzstan demanded the United States close the Manas base, but later agreed to let Washington keep the base for a higher rent.

It might turn out to be a bit of an embarrassment now as the Kyrgyz opposition were angered by the Obama administration’s obvious courting of Bakiyev.

Indeed the upheaval comes just a month after the United States announced plans to build a $5 million military base for training Kyrgyz troops to assist in the fight against international terrorism.

A Kyrgyz Defense Ministry statement says the training base — complete with barracks, dining hall, classrooms and an assault course — will be constructed near the southern town of Batken.

A revolution in Kyrgyzstan, with all the other headaches surrounding his AfPak strategy, was approximately the last thing Barack Obama needed, writes William Bradley in The Huffington Post, pointing to the very public row with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the targeting of the U.S. consulate in Peshawar over the past week.

“He barely kept the Manas air base open last year, increasing U.S. payments to the Kyrgyz government. Now the price will only go up, if indeed there is a deal to be made with the new government when it fully emerges.”


U.S. military flights from Manas have since been suspended, Reuters reported on Saturday (April 10) sis/idUSLDE63900J


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