About the Author: Tatiana C. Gfoeller serves as U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.
The U.S. and Kyrgyzstan have long maintained strong and beneficial relations. We value having Kyrgyzstan as a strategic partner with the U.S. and we look to Kyrgyzstan to lead the region in stability, prosperity and economic development.
Through a robust assistance program, the U.S is helping Kyrgyzstan maintain and enhance its security, create economic prosperity, expand its democratic freedoms and create a healthier, better-educated population.
Kyrgyzstan is also playing an active role in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by allowing the U.S. to operate a strategic Transit Center at the Manas International Airport. As the only country in Central Asia that has a U.S.-operated Transit Center, Kyrgyzstan is at the forefront of U.S. efforts to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan and promote regional stability.
Over the next year and a half of my tenure in Bishkek, I will endeavor to further strengthen and solidify U.S.-Kyrgyzstan relations and expand our partnership to even more areas of bilateral cooperation.
We are very proud of our cultural outreach in Kyrgyzstan. In the past three years, we have funded two projects through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
First, we renovated a collection of ancient gold artifacts at the National Museum. The unique collection, which dates back over 4,000 years, had been housed in a dingy storage room at the Museum because the Museum lacked secure facilities for displaying the collection. We renovated the collection and put it on display in a secure, modern exhibit, making these Kyrgyz cultural treasures available to the Kyrgyz public for the very first time. We also supported the preservation of rare books at several major libraries, including restoration, preservation, and digitizing of selected manuscripts.
During my tenure as Ambassador, I have tried to expand our cultural programs beyond traditional performances and move to more hands-on cooperation. For example, this year, we worked closely with the Kyrgyz basketball federation and Sports Ministry to expand a growing enthusiasm for the sport here, including a "March Madness"-style tournament. We also do our best to bring examples of the full range of American culture to Kyrgyzstan – from jazz to classical music, from salsa to break dancing, from documentary films to Native Americans – so the people of Kyrgyzstan can understand Americans as real people, not just the stereotypes they see in action movies.
The Kyrgyz and American peoples have a lot in common, including our tolerance, openness, and friendliness. And I have found that Kyrgyz and American people are very curious about each other. Everywhere I travel in Kyrgyzstan, people are very interested in learning about the United States.
We have thousands of Kyrgyz visit our eight American Corners and Centers each year. Each year, we sponsor almost 200 Kyrgyz students, scholars and professionals to travel to the United States.
We bring on average eight U.S. Fulbright students and scholars each year to Kyrgyz universities, along with dozens of Peace Corps Volunteers to live with them in their communities.
In addition, our two English Language Fellows are working to meet the huge demand for English here, especially through our new pilot American schools. These schools receive new American English textbooks, teacher trainings, internet connections and e-pen pals with American school children, mini-resource centers, and new sports equipment.
Our shared common values and interests have become the basis for a broader relationship and in that spirit, we continue to work together on our common goals – promotion of education, economic development, civil society and good governance. Together with the Government of Kyrgyzstan, we have renovated schools, put books in the hands of school children, strengthened the judicial sector, and provided generators to hospitals in the cold of winter, to name just a few of our many, many projects.
In conclusion, I would like to say while our relationship has had its difficulties, as every relationship does, the U.S.-Kyrgyz partnership has thrived, and I believe that it has never been stronger than it is today.