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Kyrgyz President Says Hosting U.S. Air Base Prompted Threats

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev

Kyrgyzstan's president said his country has been threatened by other unspecified nations for its decision to host a U.S. air base for nearly 13 years.

In comments to reporters on July 24, Almazbek Atambaev did not say which countries had made the threats, but he said that was one of the main reasons he pushed for the base's closure in 2014.

"Several countries openly told me that, if necessary, we'll fire rockets at the U.S. jets," Atambaev said. "They said, 'Your people will suffer.'"

The base at the Manas airport, outside the capital, Bishkek, began hosting U.S. troops in 2001 as part of the U.S. campaign in nearby Afghanistan.

The facility, which served as a transit point for personnel and equipment, was welcomed by Kyrgyzstan, which received millions of dollars in revenue, and backed by Russia, which has long considered Central Asia part of its traditional sphere of influence.

But that support waned as ties between Moscow and Washington chilled, particularly after the so-called "color revolutions" in Georgia and Ukraine as well as in Kyrgyzstan, where President Askar Askaev was driven from power in 2005.

Atambaev won the presidency in 2011 and he vowed to shutter the base.

Two years after taking office, he ratified a new, 15-year deal to lease another base to Russia, and Moscow wrote off $500 million of Kyrgyz debt.

The last U.S. military personnel left Manas in 2014.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service