Manas Airport, which is situated 30 minutes by car from the capital of the republic of Kyrgyzstan, may soon become a large US army base in Central Asia. For the time being, there are some 300 American soldiers there, who are currently preparing for 3000 more NATO soldiers to arrive.
The Americans are seriously intending to settle down in Kyrgyzstan: they are building something in Manas, there are a lot of tents there, the territory is protected with barbed wire, and watch-towers are being erected. The attendants of the airport said that dozens of trucks were delivering gravel. Many construction companies already concluded contracts regarding their participation in the large-scale building projects.
Experts believe that Manas airport was not chosen incidentally. First and foremost, it is considered as one of the largest and well-equipped airports of Central Asia. Its geographical position is unique. The airport is situated at the crossroads of the prospective transport routes that link Europe and Asia. Foreign specialists said that the airway from Europe to Asia via Kyrgyzstan is some 1.5 thousand kilometers shorter.
The deployment of the American army base exerts its influence on the life of the settlements nearby. Some are afraid that the Americans will block the roads that connect the small settlements with large cities of the republic, while others are concerned about the rumors that the Americans are going to purchase the local poultry farm, or what is left from it, to be more precise. There are a lot of businessmen who plan to conclude contracts with the American military men for the direct deliveries of fresh food to them. The most expensive supermarket in Bishkek (the capital of the republic) has already prepared discount cards for the Americans and has a lot of high-quality food stuffs available for the American soldiers.
The people in the local neighbourhood have a different attitude to that events happening in the area. The children are surely happy about the new impressions. “They treat us with Coca-Cola and take pictures with us. And we try to talk to them without interpreters,” – Ulan Kurmambetov, a kid from the settlement of Mramornoye said. His teacher said that she had noticed the children became very interested in studying the English language. The grown-ups are not happy about the constant noise and roar of engines, since the aircraft fly directly above the roofs of their houses. There are some people who say they do not care about the close presence of the American military men, or what they build or buy there, they just want the new jobs.
The government of the republic of Kyrgyzstan is wide open for the USA. The authorities gave the best airport in the country to the Americans, as well as 37 hectares of land for the military needs. Nobody asked the common man if he wanted it or not, so the local population has to adapt to the new living conditions.
Yury Razgulayev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kyrgyzstan
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/30/36301.html