U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States does not need new military bases to fight the war on terrorism, and told U.S. troops stationed in former they are helping safeguard young democracies.
Rice was meeting Tuesday with the new leadership of Kyrgyzstan, which threw off the authoritarian rule of former President Askar Akayev last spring and chose an opposition politician for president.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is pursuing further political reform, and has pledged to pursue an independent foreign policy. He also questioned whether a U.S. base that supports combat operations in Afghanistan is necessary.
"Kyrgyzstan itself has just been through an extraordinary revolution. An extraordinary new day is before the Kyrgyz people if they can deliver on the democratic promise," Rice told some of the approximately 1,000 U.S., French and Spanish troops stationed at that base.
Manas Air Base near the capital of this Central Asian nation will stay, but another base nearby in Uzbekistan will close. That base, used heavily in the four-year-old war in Afghanistan, was a casualty of a falling-out between the United States and Uzbekistan's increasingly authoritarian leader.
En route to the region Monday, Rice told reporters that the United States can live without the Uzbek base and is not seeking additional real estate in the region. U.S. officials say military installations in and around Afghanistan will handle the additional load.
U.S. troops will be in Afghanistan for a long time to come, and the difficulty of their mission was underscored Tuesday when suspected Taliban rebels ambushed a police convoy in southern Afghanistan and killed 19 officers, reports the AP. I.L.