UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

February 4, 2009

KYRGYZSTAN WANTS TO CLOSE KEY AIR BASE TO AMERICAN TROOPS

NY Times - In Moscow to seek financial support, the president of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, announced that a decision to close a U.S. air base in his country - a decision that will seriously hamper U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. . .

At a press conference, Mr. Bakiyev said the U.S. had not paid Kyrgyzstan enough in return for the use of the base – and expressed anger over a 2006 case in which an American serviceman shot and killed a Kyrgyz truck driver on the base. The American left the country, against official protest.

"How can we speak of independence and sovereignty if we cannot enforce the law on the territory of our own country?" he said, at a press conference. "All this has given rise to a negative attitude to the base in Manas. And that is why the government has made such a decision."

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, on Tuesday called Manas "a hugely important" airbase for the United States. The base has served as an air hub and refueling and transit point for NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and U.S. officials have several times intervened when Kyrgyz officials considered shutting it.

During negotiations this summer, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. would pay more than $150 million in assistance and compensation for the base. At the time, a government statement said the United States had contributed more than $850 million to support democracy, economic development, aid projects and security in the Kyrgyz Republic since its independence from the Soviet Union.

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