Photo: Google Maps
The American relationship with the Eurasian state of Kyrgyzstan is vital for its operations with Afghanistan.US troops entering or leaving Afghanistan (of which there are still 900,000 a year) head through the Transit centre at Manas, a base on the outskirts of capital city Bishkek’s Manas International Airport, and 2,500 Americans are based there permanently.
Such a base clearly riles Russia and China, long the dominant powers in natural resource-rich Eurasia. In a major diplomatic spat earlier this year, US ambassador Michael McFaul accused Russia of trying to bribe the Kyrgyz government to close the base with a $2 billion loan.
With that sort of pressure, the US government is very keen to keep the Kyrgyz people on their side — and the non-profit American300 Foundation thinks they have found a solution.
Yes, the past few years, American300 and other non-profits have been helping send American cowboys to Kyrgyzstan, hoping that the shared love of horse-riding skills can help strengthen ties between the nation.
The Arizona Republic reports that that earlier this year Arizona’s state historian was sent to the former Soviet republic to help further ties between the two nations, along with “two world-champion rodeo riders, a top-ranked professional cowboy, a Miss Rodeo Minnesota and a professional women’s rodeo rider”. The group gave out cowboy hats at rodeos that attracted as many as 5,000 people.
“Everyone wanted to get their picture taken with the cowboys,” historian Marshall Trimble told the paper.
The cultural exchange wasn’t only one way, however. It turns out the Kyrgyz people had something to teach the cowboys:
The Americans also participated in traditional Kyrgyz horseback events, such as arm wrestling, chases to steal a kiss and “kokburu,” an event best described as football using the decapitated body of a goat.
WATCH footage of this year’s trip:
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