Friday, May 27, 2016


Is Turkey Trying To Help U.S. Stay At Manas?

Turkish President Abdullah Gul addresses the parliament in Bishkek
Turkish President Abdullah Gul addresses the parliament in Bishkek
Scant attention has been paid to Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s three-day visit to Kyrgyzstan, which began on May 26.

But some observers think Gul’s trip -- the first to Bishkek by a Turkish president in nine years -- is more than a bilateral visit and might be an important geopolitical gambit in which Gul is doing the West’s bidding.

At Gul’s May 27 press conference with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, the Turkish leader said that “the most important issue of our discussions was the stability of Afghanistan.”

He added that talks were held about how the two countries “could give our support to improve the situation” in Afghanistan.

Gul and Bakiev also signed an agreement in which Ankara and Bishkek pledge to participate in the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan.

Such strong statements about Afghanistan raised suspicions among some experts that Turkey may be trying to persuade the Kyrgyz president to allow U.S. forces to continue their operations at Manas International Airport outside of Bishkek.

Washington has used the air base there to supply U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan since 2001, and the United States was not happy when Bakiev returned from Moscow in February with a Kremlin pledge for more than $2 billion in loans and promptly announced that the United States would have to vacate the air base.

The United States has been scrambling to find replacement bases in Central Asia to continue the crucial supply operations and, although it has received some promising offers from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, it has made it clear that extending its stay at Manas would be preferred to moving out in August -- as they have been told to do -- and setting up elsewhere.

Despite the parliament’s approval in March to proceed with the eviction of U.S. forces from Manas, some Kyrgyz officials have intimated that there still is a possibility that the Americans could stay at the air base under a new status.

It's possible that Gul could be taking an active role in trying to make a deal with Bishkek that would allow the United States to stay at Manas.

And Turkey -- a strong Washington ally hoping for a rejuvenated relationship with the United States under President Barack Obama -- did not come to Bishkek with empty hands, as more than 100 business people accompanied Gul on the trip to the investment-starved Central Asian country.

Turkey already exerts great economic and social influence in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University has the best facilities and is one of the largest campuses in Kyrgyzstan.

The Turkish-owned Demir-Kyrgyz International Bank is the largest in Kyrgyzstan, and the immense Coca-Cola Company in Kyrgyzstan is also Turkish owned, as are Bishkek's two-largest shopping complexes.

It is also worth noting that this week’s violence in the Uzbek town of Khanabad -- which straddles the Kyrgyz border -- and the threat of instability it brings to the region gives Gul’s visit and any possible talk about U.S. forces staying at Manas greater importance.

Gul would be able to tell Bakiev some of the advantages to having a U.S. military base in your country and is likely to warn him about the disadvantages of relying too much on Russia.

-- Pete Baumgartner

Tags: gul

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Drew from: Cleveland
May 29, 2009 00:56
Wow, this makes Turkey key to islam and asia relations. is russia vs. turkey?<br />

by: Seyitbek from: Bishkek
May 29, 2009 06:43
Hello Pete,<br /><br />Wish to let you know that the largest bank in Kyrgzystan is actually AsiaUniversalBank( Also, Bishkek's largest shopping complex is actually Dordoy bazaar, although you probably are meaning an enclosed shopping complex. Then you should say so.<br /><br />Also, best facilities I would say are at American University of Central Asia (

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
May 29, 2009 21:16
Pretty thin evidence for making such an assertion. One could easily make the opposite argument (that Gul is trying to convince the Kyrgyz to stand firm in kicking the US out of Manas). There has only been a slight decrease in the amount of anti-American sentiment since Obama took office.

by: Pete Baumgartner from: Prague
June 01, 2009 13:10
Hello Seyitbek --<br /><br />Thanks for your interest in the blog post. In reply to your message and the points you made I would say that there are different ways to measure the size of a bank -- number of branches, number of accounts, total assets, total deposits, etc. There's no doubt that the Demir-Kyrgyz International Bank is among the largest banks in Kyrgyzstan if, in fact, it is not the largest. A bazaar is not usually considered a shopping complex, and I stand by the statement that Bishkek's two largest shopping complexes, or malls if you will, are Turkish owned. Thirdly, I have spoken to several people -- including students from both universities in question -- and they seem to agree that the facilities at Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University are superior to those at the American University of Central Asia, particularly if you consider that KTMU has dormitories and several buildings in a campus environment, etc., while AUCA has none of those things and is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Bishkek in a much smaller space.<br /><br />Thanks again for your comments.

by: noMad
June 01, 2009 13:35
to Seyitbek:<br />I wish to let you know that Dordoi Bazaar is a not a shopping complex and biggest is VEFA, and probably the most popular. Plus another big mall that also Turkish owned is Beta Stores. <br />And MANAS university is a lot better equipped than any university in Kyrgyzstan. I have been to most of the universities in Kyrgyzstan and i know what i am talking about. Unfortunately, AUCA which doesn't even have a campus or a dorm cannot be compared to Manas. <br /><br />But it doesnot really matter. Point is that Turkish influence in Kyrgyzstan is enormous and noone can deny that if Turks would want something from our president there is a big chance of them getting it. <br />Plus, isn't that an interesting coincidence that Turks, who have been in our market for more that 15 years, suddenly want to increase trade up to a BILLION $, just 3 months after Russia has promised us 2 BILLIONS?<br /><br />I have not heard such big numbers in relation to KG in recent years...(of course, except our foreign debt)

by: Almaz from: Bishkek
June 06, 2009 07:00
Pete FYI:<br /><br />Demir Bank has been far surpassed in all measures that measures a bank's size by AUB after their amalgamation with Promstroy Bank last year. It now has 90 branches and holds nearly a third of Kyrgyzstan's banking assets.

by: Ay from: Astana
June 22, 2009 12:16
Dear Almaz and Seyitbek, <br />Look at the core and do not stick to trivial details. I am sure that the major scope of the article is not about which bank is bigger or mall is superior. No matter of being the first or the second in Kyrgyzstan by size I don't think that you will oppose the fact of Turkish business' influence and presence in your country. Wish you or not, like you or not this is the fact. However, in my humbled opinion, it is much better than having Chinese business without any investments but selling cheap and law-quality goods.Moreover, the article was about the visit of Turkish president and its implications for Kyrgyzstan. Stuck to details worthless to mention about, you fail to see the bigger picture, which is much more dangerous for decision-makers. I'd love to learn your opinions about whether you approve your government's decision on manas or not, rather than discussing whether Pete is right in naming largest banks or malls, which anyway belong to foreigners, no matter of which country. Best...

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