U.S. Military Commander Visits Kyrgyzstan
July 25, 2006 -- The U.S. military Central Command's chief, General John Abizaid, was in Bishkek today and met with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov.
U.S. General John Abizaid (file photo) (epa)
Media reports say the talks focused on U.S.-Kyrgyz military cooperation. The two men also discussed Kyrgyzstan's military reforms and the fate of the U.S.-manned air base at Manas Airport, near Bishkek.
Both sides on July 14 resolved a bitter payment dispute, which had cast a shadow on the base's future. Under the deal, the Pentagon reportedly agreed to pay Kyrgyzstan $20 million a year -- a tenfold increase -- for the use of the base, which serves U.S.-led operations in nearby Afghanistan.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who was also in Bishkek today, said the Manas air base is vitally important for his country.
Wardak was in the Kyrgyz capital to take part in a U.S.- sponsored seminar that also included top military representatives of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan.