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U.S. Still Welcome at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan Minister Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, July 26, 2005 – The United States is welcome to continue using Manas Air Force Base, Kyrgyzstan's defense minister said here today during a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld meets with U.S. airmen at Bishkek Manus Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, July 26. Defense Dept. photo by UTech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rumsfeld arrived here July 25 as part of a visit to the region to meet with U.S. troops and coalition partners.

Gen.-Maj. Ismail Isakov said that any future movement of U.S. troops out of Kyrgyzstan "fully depends upon the situation in Afghanistan." After Afghanistan is stabilized, he explained, there'd be no further need for American troops in Kyrgyzstan. But he also pointed out that he agrees with Rumsfeld's assessment that Afghanistan still is not stable and, therefore, U.S. troops still are needed in Kyrgyzstan.

To support military and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, U.S. supply planes fly in and out of Manas Air Force Base at Bishkek International Airport. And Tajikistan provides refueling services for U.S. military aircraft, while Uzbekistan, like Kyrgyzstan, also has provided an airport for U.S. military use.

U.S. bases in central Asia "have been enormously helpful with respect to our efforts in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said, noting those efforts also include U.S. and NATO military and humanitarian missions. Those bases also play a role in regional counterterrorism and counternarcotics missions, Rumsfeld said.

Earlier in the day, Rumsfeld met with and congratulated Kyrgyzstan's newly elected president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is to be inaugurated Aug. 14. In a joint news conference with Bakiyev, Rumsfeld said the United States and the international community are pleased that the July 10 election was conducted fairly.

"The people of the United States recognize the magnitude of Kyrgyzstan's achievement," Rumsfeld said.

Kyrgyzstan's election earned good marks from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe, Rumsfeld told reporters July 24 aboard his E-4B aircraft headed to Kyrgyzstan.

That, the secretary noted, was the first time any of the five former Soviet Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan had received OSCE passing grades for an election.

Kyrgyzstan's former president departed the country March 24 after a bloodless coup.

Bakiyev gave credit to the United States for helping to effect successful changes in his country, including the recent fairly conducted election.

The United States looks forward "to continuing to work with the international community to support Kyrgyzstan's emergence as a democratic state and a free-market economy," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said the United States also would continue to work with Kyrgyzstan's government to confront violent extremism and global terrorism.

As he prepared to depart the country, Rumsfeld met with a group of Air Force members at Manas Airport and told them they'd likely be in Kyrgyzstan a good while yet.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
State Department Background Notes on Kyrgyzstan

Related Articles:
Rumsfeld: Kyrgyzstan Election Garners Good Marks

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