U.S. moves forward with Kyrgyzstan base

Aug. 7, 2010 at 3:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The United States plans a $10 million military training base in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, where more than 300 people died in ethnic violence in June, documents show.

The based, called Osh Polygon, will feature a garrison compound with officers' quarters and barracks for enlisted personnel along with range facilities and other weapons training facilities, the Defense Department said in a pre-solicitation notice, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

U.S. officials first proposed the base under Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev for training of Kyrgyz troops for counter-terrorism operations. After Bakiyev's ouster amid corruption charges, the U.S. government continued discussions on the base with new Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva.

Kyrgyzstan remains highly unstable, and tensions have mounted between Kyrgyz government soldiers and the Uzbek minorities living in the southern part of the country, said Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs.

In a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, Blake said he worried about security along the southern border with Tajikistan and the possibility some militants from Afghanistan "might try to come up through that border."

The U.S. military relies on its Transit Center at Manas near Bishkek, operated primarily by the Air Force, as the entry and exit points for troops in Afghanistan. The base also is home to aerial tankers, which refuel fighter-bombers, and surveillance aircraft being used over Afghanistan.

"Maintaining the Manas Transit Center is an important national security priority for the United States, but that center can only be maintained if Kyrgyzstan itself is stable and a reliable partner and we ourselves are totally transparent in the functioning of that center," Blake told a session of the Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"The center is an important part of our partnership, but our focus has been and remains developing our overall political, economic and security relationship," Blake said.

The United States has given $45 million to the Kyrgyz government this year and paid $13 million in fees for use of the Manas base, the Bishkek Embassy Web site said.

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