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Britain to Help Kyrgyzstan in Army Reform

Sunday 28 August 2011

BISHKEK (IANS) – Britain has said it will help Kyrgyzstan in its efforts to reform its armed forces, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said.

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A MiG-21F as a monument in front of a military institution in downtown Bishkek. The big sign in Kyrgyz says Улуттук гвардия (“National Guard”).

According to Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry’s press service, British Major General Graham Howard, heading a Defence Ministry delegation during its visit to capital city Bishkek, made the promise during his meeting with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbayev.

One of the tasks facing the British embassy in Kyrgyzstan is to assist the country’s Defence Ministry in its reform efforts, including strengthening and modernising the military and developing its technological potential, Xinhua reported Howard as saying.

Educational programmes for junior officers of the Kyrgyz Defence Ministry will be offered, Howard said.

The two sides also discussed the military and political situation in Afghanistan, threats and challenges to regional security, the mission of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, as well as the prospect of transferring security control to Afghan authorities.

The armed forces of Kyrgyzstan, originally formed from former Soviet forces of the Turkestan Military District stationed in the newly independent state, includes the Army/Land Forces, the Air and Air Defence Forces, the Northern and Southern Groups of Forces, Interior Troops, Agency of National Security and Border Troops.

For much of the Soviet period, since 1967, the 8th Guards “Panfilov” Motor Rifle Division was the main military force in the country, and the Division was only disbanded in January 2003. In 1967 the Division had been moved to Bishkek from the Baltic Military District, where it had previously been based.

In terms of foreign presence, the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom coalition use the Manas Air Base (Bishkek’s international airport) while Russia has the 999th Air Base at Kant which was set up by Moscow to counter the American military presence in the Former Soviet state.

Because of expense and military doctrine, Kyrgyzstan has not developed its air capability; a large number of the MiG-21 interceptors that it borrowed from Russia were returned in 1993, although a number of former Soviet air bases remain available. In 1996 about 100 decommissioned MiG-21s remained in Kyrgyzstan, along with ninety-six L-39 trainers and sixty-five helicopters. The air defense forces have received aid from Russia, which has sent military advisory units to establish a defense system. The Russians also help patrol Kyrgyz airspace as part of the Joint CIS Air Defense System Presently Kyrgyzstan has twenty-six SA-2 and SA-3 surface-to-air missiles in its air defense arsenal.

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