WASHINGTON – The United States should begin to think about pulling its troops out of Afghanistan,Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to the United States said Thursday.
At a press briefing sponsored by Radio Free Europe as part of its coverage of Kyrgyzstan's upcoming election,Zamira Sadykova said she wants to start a conversation,not a controversy.
Kyrgyzstan is one of six countries that belong to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That group called on the U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan along with support troops based in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan because it fears a spread of U.S. influence in the region.
“SCO can't determine when stability will finally be established in the region,” she said. “This declaration is intended to be a first step towards talking about Afghan issues.”
On Tuesday,the six SCO member countries,China,Russia,Kyrgyzstan,Kazakhstan,Tajikistan and Uzbekistan celebrated the 10th anniversary since the appearance of the “Shanghai group” in 1996,which was established to promote and strengthen security along the member-states’ borders.
The group had gathered for a summit in the Kazakh capital,Astana.
“As the active military phase in the anti-terror operation in Afghanistan is nearing completion,the SCO members consider it necessary that relevant members of the anti-terrorist coalition determine on a deadline for the temporary use of the said infrastructure and for their military contingents' presence in SCO member countries,” the declaration said,according to an account published in Kazpravda,a state-run newspaper in Astana.
Sadykova said that Kyrgyzstan's interim president,Kurmanbek Bakiyev,signed the declaration.
Bakiyev also became prime minister after the March 24 Tulip Revolution that ousted former Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev and created a new parliament.
Sadykova praised Bakiyev for the way he has planned for a free and fair election
Sunday by keeping government workers officially neutral. The country will choose a president and parliament.
“Bakiyev issued an edict that bans public officials to participate in the voting process. TV channels were broadcasting presidential debates,which was hard to even imagine during the former president's office,” Sadykova said.
Bakiyev's interim government created a state commission against corruption,transformed the state television network into a public one and arranged for the election to be conducted according to democratic norms and rules. He receive help from the United Nations Development Programme and the United States government.
“The United States financed preparation for the upcoming elections. The U.S. government provided us with an official voting list,helped conduct TV debates,and hold exit polls” Sadykova said.
Previous Kyrgyz presidential elections were famous for their so called “dead souls.”
They were people who didn't vote,even though it was mandatory. Sadykova said the former president's administration controlled the outcome by casting ballots for the dead souls.
Six candidates are running for the presidency,including a leader of the Kyrgyz Democratic Movement,Jypar Jeksheev,and the first woman to run for the office. She is Toktaim Umetalieva,who is in charge of non-governmental noncommercial organizations in Kyrgyzstan.
“When somebody said that there was no alternative to Akayev,we always thought that we have many bright and talented political leaders,” Sadykova said.
Umeltalieva has been a friend of former president Akayev's daughter for many years and demonstrated against the war in Iraq.
“Toktaim Umeltalieva has a pretty strong election campaign. She has got a lot of commercials on TV,billboards and posters with her presidential proposal throughout the Kyrgyz cities,” Sadykova said.
However,a number of candidates who had said in the spring they would run for president dropped out to support Bakiyev,who is considered the favorite.
“Being an interim Kyrgyz president right now,Bakiyev has to face a relatively difficult position due to competition,” said Sadykova.
Sadykova said the new Kyrgyz administration's challenges will include strengthening political stability and developing democracy.
“After the elections,we are looking forward to be recognized as the ‘island of democracy' by other democratic countries,including the United States,” Sadykova concluded.