Rumsfeld: Kyrgyzstan Election Garners Good Marks
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, Jul. 25, 2005 Kyrgyzstan's recent election has received kudos from a European poll-watching organization, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said July 24 en route to this former Soviet republic.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld conducts an airborne news conference aboard an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft en route to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, July 24. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld arrived here today.
Kyrgyzstan's election, held July 10, earned good marks from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe, Rumsfeld told reporters aboard his Air Force E-4B aircraft. This, the secretary noted, is the first time any of the five former Soviet central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan had received OSCE passing grades for an election.
The July 10 election was important for Kyrgyzstan, Rumsfeld said. The world was watching to see what would happen next, he explained, after Kyrgyzstan's former president fled the country March 24 after a bloodless coup.
During his visit here, Rumsfeld is slated to meet with the country's newly elected president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose inauguration is scheduled Aug. 14.
Support agreements made between the United States and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other countries in the central Asian region have assisted U.S. military and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Rumsfeld noted.
About 950 U.S. troops are in Kyrgyzstan, where American supply planes fly into and out of Manas Air Force Base at Bishkek International Airport, he said. Tajikistan provides refueling services for U.S. military aircraft, the secretary added, and Uzbekistan, like Kyrgyzstan, has provided an airport for U.S. military use.
"These are important countries to us, and they've been very helpful in the war on terrorism in this region," Rumsfeld said. Use of bases and overflight rights, he noted, have helped with the continuing humanitarian and military missions in Afghanistan.
When a reporter asked about the recent terror bombings in London and Egypt during his airborne news conference, Rumsfeld responded that he has great respect for the way the British people have refused to back down to terrorists.
"They clearly understand that it's important not to acquiesce or to appease terrorists," Rumsfeld said. He noted that if terrorists' use of violence causes countries to change their antiterrorist policies, then "everybody loses."
And it's "ridiculous," Rumsfeld declared, that some people are saying the war in Iraq is the cause for the recent terror bombings in London and Egypt. "Terrorist attacks have been happening well before the war in Iraq," the secretary pointed out.