July 11, 2005

Bakiyev questions U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's newly-elected president
Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Monday questioned the continued presence
of U.S. troops at a military base they have used since the war
to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan.

His comments were in line with those of other former Soviet
Central Asian countries which last week called for U.S. troops
to fix a date for their departure from their bases.

"Afghanistan has held presidential and parliamentary
elections and therefore the situation there has stabilized,"
Bakiyev told a news conference shortly after election
authorities announced he had won a landslide victory in a
presidential poll on Sunday.

"Thus, right now, we may proceed with the issue of whether
it is expedient to still deploy military forces of the United
States (in Kyrgyzstan). Time will show when and how it
(withdrawal) happens," said Bakiyev.

Washington has used Central Asia as a springboard for
military operations in Afghanistan, launched after the hijacked
airliner attacks in the United States in September 2001.

It was granted airbases by Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, as
well as overflight permits by Kazakhstan, and has shown no sign
of wanting to give the bases up.