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Kyrgyzstan to continue supporting U.S. operation in Afghanistan

BISHKEK, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan will make every effort to provide support to the United States in their anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Security Council secretary said Tuesday.

The U.S. established a military base in the region in 2001 using the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan as a spearhead for operations in Afghanistan, during the U.S.-led invasion by coalition forces against the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

"When it comes to the fight against terrorism, drugs trafficking and religious extremism, we have always sided with the antiterrorism coalition," Tokon Mamytov said at a meeting with Admiral William J. Fallon, the commander of the U.S. Central Command.

The U.S. Ganci airbase, or Manas, located 30 kilometers (17 miles) east of the Kyrgyz capital, accommodates 1,000 U.S. troops along with nine refueling and cargo planes supporting antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

Mamytov also said that the development of cooperation with the U.S. is one of the top priorities for Kyrgyzstan, but the sides still have to resolve some problems caused by the presence of American servicemen in the country.

Among the problems he named emergency dumping of aviation fuel by U.S. Air Force pilots, which raises serious concern among local environmentalists, and asked the U.S. to complete the investigation into the death of a Kyrgyz national by a U.S. soldier in last December as quickly as possible.

Alexander Ivanov, 42, a driver at the fuel supply company Aircraft Petroleum Management and father of two, was shot dead December 6 by U.S. airman, Zachary Hatfield, while undergoing a routine security check at the Manas airbase. The Americans said Hatfield reacted to a threat.

Fallon said in turn that the U.S. is ready for closer cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and will definitely provide Kyrgyzstan with the results of the investigation, which will be completed in the nearest future.

Although Russia applied pressure on Bishkek to demand the withdrawal of American troops, the impoverished nation of five million needs U.S. support and the military base, which is leased for $150 million annually under a new agreement, has generated jobs and is a strong contributor to the Kyrgyz economy.

Russia has established its own military base in Kyrgyzstan as a counterweight to the U.S. airbase at Manas.

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