The Kyrgyz government and key parliamentary commissions have given the go-ahead to France to deploy forces in Kyrgyzstan, without waiting for the parliament to ratify first the intergovernmental French-Kyrgyz agreement. This week, almost 200 French troops set up camp at the Manas airport outside Bishkek, where a 30-strong advance French party had since January been preparing the deployment site. Under the intergovernmental agreement, some 500 French troops, six Mirage-2000 fighter-bombers, and two refueling planes are to be stationed at Manas for one year. The term has not yet begun flowing, but the Kyrgyz government has already announced its willingness to prolong it for at least another year. The agreement is analogous to that signed by the United States and Kyrgyzstan last December.
Approximately ten countries, mostly NATO allies, are seeking Kyrgyzstan’s consent to the deployment of their forces in the country on the basis of bilateral agreements. Manas is now expected to host some 5,000 troops, including 3,000 Americans, of whom more than 400 are already on site.
From February 5 through 16, a company-size Kyrgyz elite unit–drawn from among army and internal affairs troops–is conducting an exercise under the supervision of ten American instructors. The troops are rehearsing an antiterrorist operation in mountainous terrain, including night attack and pursuit, and featuring the use of helicopters for landing troops and evacuating the wounded.
Summing up the Kyrgyz government’s view, State Secretary Osmonakul Ibraimov declared on Russian state television: “The foreign forces will stay until we feel confident that we are not threatened by terrorism and that we can develop in peace and stability.” The barely veiled implication, for the Russian audience, is that Russia is in no position to provide the kind of guarantees that the Western countries do. Ibraimov went on to educate his audience to “forget altogether about thinking in terms of blocs, that is, ‘if you work together with America, that means that you are against us Russians.’ This is a relic from the old Soviet thinking” (Russian Television, February 3; AFP, Kyrgyz Press International, Interfax, February 5-7; see the Monitor, January 2, 16, February 4).
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