Central Asia: December 1, 2002


Two Russian Air Force SU-25 "Frogfoot" ground attack aircraft and two IL-76 "Candid" transport aircraft arrived at Kyrgyzstan's Soviet-era Kant military airport. There will be no transfers to Kant on 1 December, due to a thick fog in the area, but three SU-27 "Flanker" air superiority fighters will arrive on the 2nd when the weather improves. The Russian grouping in Kant will muster five SU-27s, five SU- 25s, two AN-26 Curl transport aircraft, five L-39 trainers, two MI-8 Hip multi-mission helicopters and two IL-76s. About 700 servicemen and civilians will be stationed at the base and preliminary estimates are that it will cost about $50 million a year. 

Until recently, the Kant airfield only hosted a civilian airline and a Kyrgyz Air Force airbase that hosted L-39 planes and MI-8 helicopters. The Kyrgyz pilots had hardly made a single flight over the past two years. The Russian military presence in the region to date was confined to Tajikistan and protecting its border with Afghanistan. 

The decision to transfer Russian planes to Kyrgyzstan was made by the Collective Security Treaty nations (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan) and will form the aircraft core of their collective Central Asian rapid-deployment force. While the Russian unit's stationing in Kyrgyzstan is temporary, an agreement to make it a permanent base could be signed. Many believe that Kyrgyzstan agreed to the Russian Air Force unit's deployment, in return for Moscow's acceptance of NATO military forces at the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan (and Uzbekistan), for the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan. The Americans look like they're going to be staying for awhile. General Tommy Franks, the commander of all U.S. troops in the Middle East and Central Asia, made it a point to stop and have Thanksgiving dinner with American troops stationed in Kyrgyzstan.

The country has it's own issues with stability - Kyrgyz southerners want justice from the government for some protestors killed back in March and a Kyrgyz presidential advisor also called for an expansion of "educational and cultural relations" between Kyrgyzstan and Iran on 25 November. - Adam Geibel 


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