Kyrgyzstan: new president pledges to boot US base

Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected president, Almazbek Atambayev, announced upon his victory Oct. 31 that he will close Manas air base, which has been critical to the US campaign in Afghanistan. Atambayev said the lease for the US lease will not be renewed after it expires in 2014. He told the BBC: “The US base should be shut down. What if there is a war between the US and Iran, and in response Iran bombs the Manas? What will happen to us?” Atambayev served as prime minister under interim leader Roza Otunbayeva following last year’s revolution, and has steered a course closer to Russia, which also has military forces in Kyrgyzstan.

Atambayev pledged to unify the country, after more than 400 people were killed in fighting between Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities in the south last year. “I will never use ethnic labels—Uzbeks, Tatars, Kyrgyz,” he said. “In my own family we have many nationalities. I just want to tell you that in the future people who ignite inter-ethnic and regional tensions will be punished.” Atambayev’s assumption of the presidency will be the first time in Central Asia’s post-Soviet history that a change in executive power occurs via the ballot box. But he is likely to face a legitimacy crisis over widespread reports of election irregularities. (BBC News, FT, EurasiaNet, Oct. 31)

See our last post on Kyrgyzstan and the Great Game for Central Asia.

See also our special feature on Obama and the Great Game .

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  1. Kyrgyzstan ex-president sentenced to 11 years

    A court in Bishkek sentenced former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev to 11 years in prison for illegally releasing crime boss Aziz Batukaev in 2013. Batukaev was sentenced in 2006 to 16 years imprisonment for several crimes, including murder and organizing riots in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. In 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer, released from prison, and he fled to Russia. (Jurist)