US will consider keeping Kyrgyzstan base: Hillary
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Last Updated: Friday, December 03, 2010, 00:40
Bishkek: The US will reconsider its military presence in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan once it winds down its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US military presence so close to its borders. It has also been the source of tension in US-Kyrgyz relations, in part because of Kyrgyz suspicion of corruption in contracts for supplying the air base with fuel.

Clinton said today that the US 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 US will help set up a Kyrgyz entity that would bid for a portion of the lucrative fuel supply contracts.

Those contracts was held by companies that authorities suspected of links with the family of the Kyrgyz president overthrown earlier this year. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was unseated amid bloody public street protests over festering living standards and perceived corruption.

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


First Published: Friday, December 03, 2010, 00:40

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