A derelict hospital refurbished last year to serve as a battered women’s shelter with nearly $750,000 in aid from the US military in Kyrgyzstan has never been used for its intended purpose. The disconnect between the project’s mission and its outcomes, plus its exorbitant cost, is casting doubt on the judiciousness of the Pentagon’s aid spending in the beleaguered Central Asian country.
The Shopokov Women’s Development Center, located some 15 kilometers outside the capital, Bishkek, opened with fanfare on August 25, 2010, as “a place of refuge during difficult times,” according to a senior Air Force officer quoted by US Central Command at the time. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by then-Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller and Col. Dwight Sones, commander of the Manas Transit Center, an airbase critical to Washington’s war effort in Afghanistan. A spokesman for Manas said on April 19 that the center -- which took one year to renovate and cost one-third of the base’s 2010 humanitarian aid spending -- was to be used as a “development center for battered women” and “a shelter for up to 55 women and their children.”
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor. Natasha Yefimov is a Bishkek-based freelance journalist.