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No Change Expected at Coalition Base in Kyrgyzstan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2005 – The political situation in Kyrgyzstan is expected to have no impact on coalition efforts there in support of operations in Afghanistan, the No. 2 officer at U.S. Central Command told Pentagon wire service reporters here today.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith said Kyrgyzstan's new government members have "gone out of their way" to ensure the United States understands that the country's foreign policy "is going to remain the same."

Coalition troops at Manas Air Base "have been very engaged" in watching the political situation unfold in Kyrgyzstan following the ouster of the country's longtime president, Askar Akayev, but don't feel unsafe, he said.

"Our folks do not feel threatened," Smith said. "They are obviously not roaming around downtown, but they do not feel threatened and there are no indications whatsoever that our relationship will change."

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet possession, has provided staging sites to sustain U.S. operations during Operation Enduring Freedom. A contingent of U.S. troops at the base provides logistical support to coalition efforts in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan's political situation changed dramatically on March 24 after protesters stormed the main government building in Bishkek and demanded Akayev's resignation following what they called flawed parliamentary elections earlier in the month.

Opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced that he had been named acting prime minister and president and chose key officials for a new government late last week.

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