US will con­sider mil­i­tary pres­ence in Kyr­gyzs­tan

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

BISHKEK: The U.S. will re­con­sider its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Cen­tral Asian nation of Kyr­gyzs­tan once it winds down its com­bat mis­sion in Afghanistan in 2014, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said Thurs­day.

She of­fered no in­di­ca­tion of whether the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes to main­tain a pres­ence at the Manas air base, which plays a cen­tral role in mov­ing troops and sup­plies to sup­port the war ef­fort in Afghanistan.

Speak­ing to stu­dents and civic lead­ers in a live TV in­ter­view, Clin­ton noted that the U.S. and its NATO part­ners agreed last month in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, to be­gin turn­ing over con­trol to lo­cal Afghan au­thor­i­ties in 2011, with a goal of com­plet­ing that tran­si­tion by the end of 2014.

"Then we will look to see if there is any con­tin­u­ing mis­sion" for U.S. troops at Manas, she said.

Later, in a pep talk to Amer­i­can troops at Manas, Clin­ton said, "You're not go­ing to be here in­def­i­nitely."

The U.S. has used Manas as a ma­jor tran­sit point since the Afghan war be­gan in 2001. The base has been a sore sub­ject with re­gional gi­ant Rus­sia, which has ob­jected to a U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence so close to its bor­ders. It has also been the source of ten­sion in U.S.Kyr­gyz re­la­tions, in part be­cause of Kyr­gyz sus­pi­cion of cor­rup­tion in con­tracts for sup­ply­ing the air base with fuel.

Clin­ton said Thurs­day that the U.S. has agreed to in­clude a Kyr­gyz firm in the con­tract­ing for fuel supplied to Manas.

At a joint news con­fer­ence with cur­rent Pres­i­dent Roza Otun­bayev, Clin­ton said the U.S. will help set up a Kyr­gyz en­tity that would bid for a por­tion of the lu­cra­tive fuel sup­ply con­tracts.

The two com­pa­nies in­volved - Red Star En­ter­prises and Mina Corp, both based in Gi­bral­tar - have de­nied any ties to the Bakiyev fam­ily. -Ap

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