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April 14, 2005
Kyrgyzstan: Yankees, Stay Here!

Donald Rumsfeld traveled to meet the new political leaders of Kyrgyzstan as part of his security tour of Southwest and Central Asia this week. Despite the speculation that the new Kyrgyz leaders would align themselves more closely with Moscow at the expense of the West, interim Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev told Rumsfeld that his government wants the American base outside the capitol of Bishkek to remain:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, visiting amid political turmoil in this former Soviet republic, won assurances Thursday that the U.S. military will not lose access to a base it established here in support of the war in Afghanistan.

Ganci air base, which is situated at Manas airport outside the capital, is part of a network of facilities in Central Asia that still provides support for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

Doubts were raised about the future of the U.S. military presence when Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev fled the country last month after an uprising that has yet to play out.

The acting prime minister, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, discussed the base and other issues with Rumsfeld during a brief stop before Rumsfeld returned to Washington.

During a joint news conference, Bakiyev reinforced the government view that all international agreements signed by the deposed Askar Akayev would remain in force. Bakiyev refused to endorse an expansion of any foreign forces in Kyrgyzstan, but with Afghanistan itself asking for a closer security relationship with the US earlier this week, such an expansion is hardly needed. Neighboring Uzbekistan also hosts a small contingent of American forces, as Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration have built a network of small but effective outposts in the moutainous regions of Asia to directly target and kill Islamist terrorists. Uzbeks and the Kyrgyz hardly want these bloodthirsty lunatics roaming freely in their own territory and have little to gain from expelling us.

One notable conclusion about Rumsfeld's trip is how effective he is at diplomacy. Hamid Karzai owes us his freedom and his stability, but even so, asking the US to expand its forces in a primarily Muslim country and to extend its stay indefinitely hardly makes for the best political position in that part of the world. The Kyrgyz obviously want to maintain and improve its relationship with Moscow and Putin, especially since they share a border with China and could use the immediate assistance of Russia in a tight spot. However, Rumsfeld deftly navigated through the diplomatic dangers in both places as well as in Pakistan, strengthening the American position and our prestige in the region tremendously.

Those who consider Rumsfeld a dangerously loose cannon should take time to reconsider. He can be blunt, at times, and some overly sensitive diplomatic dilettantes might disapprove of that manner. However, for people who have fought for their freedom and their lives, honesty apparently sounds very attractive.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 14, 2005 7:16 AM

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