Kyrgyzstan: US Ambassador-Nominee Confident that Washington Will Retain Manas Air Base
The White House's nominee to be the next American ambassador to Kyrgyzstan says she is confident that the new government in Bishkek will allow Washington to operating the Manas Transit Center, not far from the Kyrgyz capital, “for as long as we need it.”
“While we've had our ups and downs with Kyrgyzstan, there have been negotiations over the exact elements of how we would cooperate with Kyrgyzstan to use the transit center, in every instance we've been able to come to an agreement with Kyrgyzstan on a way forward,” said Pamela Spratlen, the nominee to be the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. “I think the Kyrgyz authorities clearly understand the importance of a secure and stable Afghanistan. ... And I believe that it will be possible for us to continue to rely on the cooperation of the authorities of Kyrgyzstan for the use of the transit center for as long as we need it.”
Spratlen spoke December 9 at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If confirmed by the Senate, she will replace the outgoing US envoy in Bishkek, Tatiana Gfoeller. Spratlen said her top priority would be to protect US citizens and to help “the people of Kyrgyzstan in building a society and government based on democratic principles, respect for human rights, and a vibrant and just civil society.”
The second priority, she said, would be “to sustain the support of the government for its critical role as host of the Manas Transit Center.” She went on to stress Washington’s commitment to eliminating terrorism in Central Asia. Success on the anti-terrorism front will involve helping the government of Kyrgyzstan defend its borders, she said. Her aim will be “to work with Kyrgyzstan to ensure that the government is strong enough and that the borders are secure enough that Kyrgyzstan does not become the playground of people who have various forms of mischief in mind,” she said. “That's going to require continuing cooperation with our friends in the Department of Defense, and continued work with neighbors and other partners.”
Spratlen expressed confidence that reconciliation between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, who clashed this summer in southern Kyrgyzstan, was possible because so many local and international organizations are working on it. The fact that so many outside authorities – from the United States to the United Nations to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – have been focused on the issue “has helped those elements in society, and there are many, that are working on reconciliation,” she said.
Spratlen was most recently the State Department’s deputy chief of mission in Kazakhstan, and also has served as acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Central Asia. It is not yet known when the Senate will vote on her confirmation.