Kyrgyzstan’s new president, Almazbek Atambayev, said Tuesday that he wants a U.S. military base in the country to close when its lease runs out in 2014, The New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the base, officially considered a transit center, has been a "crucial supply hub for the war in Afghanistan since 2001."
“We know that the United States is often engaged in military conflicts,” Atambayev said. “There was Iraq and Afghanistan, and now there are tensions with Iran. I would not want any of these countries to launch a retaliatory strike on the military base one day.”
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The Associated Press reports that the base is the United States' only outpost in the region (Uzbekistan evicted the U.S. in 2005), and that the U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan has "vexed" Russia, which sees the country as part of its sphere of influence. Russia also has a military base in Kyrgyzstan, and Atambayev has said nothing about that base.
Writing for Time's Global Spin blog, Ishaan Tharoor said that Atambayev's victory "likely marks the return of Russian preeminence" in Kyrgyzstan.
According to the AP, the U.S. base has also the subject of frequent rumors among area residents and politicians, who say the fuel dumps ruin crops and contribute to illnesses.