03/05/2010, 00.00
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US to build anti-terror centre in Kyrgyzstan

US sources say building to start soon. Kyrgyz authorities insist talks still underway. Kyrgyzstan wants to strengthen its border to stop terrorists from crossing into the country. Moscow views dimly US presence, plans to build its own training base in the former Soviet republic.
Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United States plans to build an anti-terror training centre in the southern Kyrgyz province of Batken, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy said. “The Office of Military Cooperation, which is funding the project, [says] that work will soon begin,” she said. Total costs should be around US$ 500,000, a small price tag that suggests it would be relatively small.

The United States has already spent millions of dollars on upgrading and constructing training centres for Kyrgyz security forces. Speaking at the opening of a US$ 9 million Special Forces Training Compound for Kyrgyzstan’s elite Scorpion Battalion in Tokmok last October, Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller said, "brand new, modern military equipment—trucks, tactical gear, ambulances, night sights, body armour, and much more—are arriving in Kyrgyzstan daily and being distributed to Kyrgyzstan’s armed forces." In addition, “Our cooperation extends to [. . .] providing training to security forces and helping to build border-posts on isolated and porous borders,” the envoy added,

A spokesman for the Kyrgyz Ministry of Defence was more cautious. He confirmed yesterday that the project is under discussion. "There were talks about it with the US embassy, but no papers are signed on it yet. It is not finally decided,” he said.

In any case, Russia is not going to be pleased, experts believe, to see closer ties between Washington and a former Soviet republic.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said that Kyrgyzstan’s borders are “the biggest threat" to the country’s national security.  For this reason, he has accepted foreign assistance in the fight against terrorism. As a result, the Kyrgyz government is keen to see a proposed Russian base also open in southern Kyrgyzstan. However, whilst Russian leaders reportedly want to open the base near Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s southern capital, Kyrgyz officials are widely believed to want the base situated in Batken Province, not far from the Uzbek border.

“Batken is a very fragile place,” said Bishkek-based political analyst Mars Sariev; “building such a [US] facility there is part of US strategy and directed toward securing [the Pentagon’s] place in the region”. In a second phase, “American instructors” can be brought in “to prepare our military or Special Forces.”

Even though the presence of US instructors will not go down well in the Kremlin; having a Russian base and anti-terror training centre built by Americans says a lot about Kyrgyzstan’s multi-vector politics.

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