The Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan and the Islamic fundamentalist underground movement Hezb-e Tahrir have, each for its own reasons, come out against the deployment of American and other Western forces in Kyrgyzstan.
The pro-Moscow Communist Party has taken that position after some hesitation. Last December it did not oppose the one-year lease of Manas airport to the U.S. Air Force. The party changed its position, however, after the main antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan ended, and after Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev announced his readiness to prolong the deployment arrangements beyond the first year. Party leader Absamat Masaliev has made public an appeal to the parliament and the presidency to reject requests by France, Canada and other Western countries to station forces in Kyrgyzstan, and to refrain from prolonging the U.S. presence after the first year.
For its part, Hezb-e Tahrir [The Islamic Liberation Party] has disseminated leaflets denouncing the U.S. military presence as “a shame on the people of Kyrgyzstan” and “no good for Muslims.” The leaflets also announce that Hezb-e Tahrir would “strive to open the eyes of faithful Muslims to the destructive consequences of Yankee activities.” Another leaflet says that “under the guise of the antiterrorism struggle, America is beginning an invasion of Asia” as part of a plan for world domination. Yet another tract warns that the United States is “blackmailing” Central Asian countries and planning to “reduce the Kyrgyz to slaves.” Initially distributed in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Osh Region–a traditional stronghold of Muslim religious life–the leaflets have made their way to the more secular northern Kyrgyzstan. Last week, many of them were found in mailboxes of Bishkek apartment buildings.
Some political opponents of Akaev are seizing upon such protests to magnify the actual extent of popular opposition to the U.S. deployment. The implied thesis is that popular discontent with the authorities would translate into hostility to the U.S. presence, perceived as a prop to Akaev. This thesis is, however, not borne out by nonpartisan media reports, which seem to reflect a generally friendly reception of the U.S. military and widespread hopes for an economic trickle-down effect of that presence (Roundup based on Kyrgyz media reporting, February 4-10; the Monitor, December 11, 2001; January 2, 16).
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