U.S. Kyrgyz airbase use fuelled repressive, corrupt rule of former Prez Bakiyev: Expert

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Washington, Apr 23(ANI): A panel of experts has told the U.S. Congress that the country tolerated a corrupt government in Kyrgyzstan to maintain access to Manas Air Base that is key to the fighting in Afghanistan.

Manas Air Base was opened in December 2001 to support U.S. military operations in the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and it has hosted forces from several other International Security Assistance Force member states as well.

The base is a transit point for US military personnel coming and going from Afghanistan, and home to air-refueling tankers that keep U.S. and coalition fighter-bombers in the air over Afghanistan. t has also been the source of alleged corruption payments to two Kyrgyz Presidents, and resentment over the payments was a major reason behind their ouster.

Alexander Cooley, an associate professor at Barnard College at Columbia University, told the House Government Reform subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs that the air base had become "a source for rental payments and service contracts that have tended to serve the private interests of powerful Kyrgyz elites".

Cooley also said the most recently deposed President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, transferred up to 200 million dollars from the country before he left office.

"It is not surprising that the U.S. military presence has become intertwined with allegations that the U.S. supported the repressive and corrupt rule of former President Bakiyev," The Washington Post quoted Cooley, as saying.

He further suggested that the U.S. should "explore ways in which they can turn Manas-related payments and service contracts into a public benefit for Kyrgyzstan as a whole, rather than a private revenue stream for connected insiders".

Meanwhile, Baktybek Abdrisaev, a former Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States, told the panel that the Obama administration must demonstrate that Kyrgyzstan means more to it than simply being "the Manas Transit Center". (ANI)

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