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There Was Almost a Coup in Kyrgyzstan Yesterday, But No One Knows

On a day that America’s focus was fixed on the presidential combatants at the University of Denver, a leadership struggle of another kind was taking place in Central Asia. AP:

Protesters clashed with police and tried to break into a building housing the parliament and government offices in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Wednesday during a rally to demand the resignation of the prime minister and other top officials.

Authorities in the Central Asian nation described the mass assault as an attempt to overthrow the government.

Police officers protecting government offices known as the White House used dogs and smoke bombs to disperse a group of young men who attempted to scale the gates.

Ostensibly this was a protest organized to demand the nationalization of a controversial gold mine. Today, Kyrgyz police arrested three parliamentarians who led the rally, two of whom, Sapar Zhaparov and Kamchibek Tashiyev, “are members of a virulently nationalist opposition party, Ata-Zhurt, which draws the bulk of its support from the south of the country, which was the scene of deadly ethnic clashes in June 2010.”

Does any of this matter? To most VM readers, probably not. But unrest in Kyrgzstan is likely to worry some people in Washington. The country is home to just 5 million people, but it hosts a U.S. Air Force base that serves as a base of Afghan operations. Kyrgyzstan is usually the most stable and definitely the most democratic regime in the neighborhood, as well as an important pillar of American power in Central Asia. Prolonged unrest there could throw a wrench in plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

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