The US military, recently booted from Uzbekistan, has been granted long-term access to Kyrgyzstan, BBC reported Oct. 11. The deal followed talks between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Kurmanbek Bakiev in Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan had earlier urged the US to set a timetable for its withdrawal from military bases in Central Asia.
One senior US diplomat described the negotiations between Rice and Bakiev for a continued US military presence at the Manas air base as “very tough.” The base remains crucial to the US, with 1,700 troops and millions of gallons of fuel passing through every month. The statement released in Bishkek says that Kyrgyzstan supports the presence of coalition forces at Manas until the mission of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan is completed.
Kyrgyzstan still wants to discuss payment for the use of the base. The US has paid about $50 million in the past year, but the new government in Kyrgyzstan has expressed concerns about corruption, charging that some of the money was taken by the son of former President Askar Akayev, ousted in March.