US will consider keeping Kyrgyzstan base: Hillary
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
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.