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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Kyrgyzstan is a small and poor Central Asian country that gained independence in 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The United States has been interested in helping Kyrgyzstan to enhance its sovereignty and territorial integrity, increase democratic participation and civil society, bolster economic reform and development, strengthen human rights, prevent weapons proliferation, and more effectively combat transnational terrorism and trafficking in persons and narcotics. The United States has pursued these interests throughout Central Asia, with special strategic attention to oil-rich Kazakhstan and somewhat less to Kyrgyzstan.

The significance of Kyrgyzstan to the United States increased after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Kyrgyzstan offered to host U.S. forces at an airbase at the Manas international airport outside of the capital, Bishkek, and it opened in December 2001. The U.S. military repaired and later upgraded the air field for aerial refueling, airlift and airdrop, medical evacuation, and support for U.S. and coalition personnel and cargo transiting in and out of Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz government threatened to close down the airbase in early 2009, but renewed the lease on the airbase (renamed the Manas Transit Center) in June 2009 after the United States agreed to higher lease and other payments. Current President Roza Otunbayeva has declared that the interim government will support the continued presence of the transit center, although some changes to the lease may be sought in the future, in recognition that ongoing instability in Afghanistan jeopardizes Kyrgyzstan and wider regional security. In 2010, the Manas Transit Center hosted about 850 U.S., Spanish, and French troops and 750 contractors and a fleet of KC-135 refueling tankers.

Cumulative U.S. budgeted assistance to Kyrgyzstan for FY1992-FY2008 was $953.5 million (FREEDOM Support Act and agency funds). Kyrgyzstan ranks third in such aid per capita among the Soviet successor states, indicative of U.S. government and congressional support in the early 1990s for its apparent progress in making reforms and more recently to support anti-terrorism, border protection, and operations in Afghanistan. After an April 2010 coup in Kyrgyzstan and ethnic violence in June 2010 in the south of the country, the United States provided $4.1 million in urgent humanitarian assistance. At a July 2010 international donors’ conference, the United States in addition pledged $48.6 million to address further food and other humanitarian needs and economic recovery. Besides this assistance, the Administration has requested $46.9 million in foreign aid for Kyrgyzstan for FY2011 for democratization, security, health, education, and agricultural reform programs

Date of Report: September 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: 97-690
Price: $29.95

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