Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 3 / Trend V. Zhavoronkova/
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev's constant threats to close the U.S. transit center Manas might be a part of a game, the U.S. expert on Central Asia Bruce Pannier said.
"President Atambayev's constant reminders might be part of a game to get the U.S. to pay more for using Manas, the same way former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev did," Pannier, expert of Radio Liberty, wrote Trend via e-mail.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has recently reminded the U.S. ambassador in Kyrgyzstan about the termination of the lease for using Manas in 2014 and that Kyrgyzstan is not going to prolong the lease agreement.
Kyrgyz Parliament's opposition stands for closing Manas before its lease term expires.
A delegation from the U.S. Central Command started a visit to Bishkek on February 1.
"Officially the Americans are there to discuss military cooperation for the period October 2012 to September 2013 and undoubtedly they will discuss the future use of the Manas base," Pannier said.
He believes that Atambayev's repeats about the U.S.'s withdrawal from Manas must be pleasing to Russia and China to hear it and this is also one of the reasons Kyrgyz President says it so often.
"He understands Russia and China are neighbors while the U.S. is far away and that is a point that has become increasingly clear since 2001," expert added.
Expert said any illusions about what the U.S. can do for Central Asia are giving way to the reality of the situation, namely that the U.S. can only do so much in Central Asia and as America pulls its troops out of Afghanistan it is probable U.S. interest in the region will decline, at least for a while.
Russia and China on the other hand are increasingly active in Central Asia and likely to be more helpful in the coming years in terms of trade and security partners, Pannier added.
Atambayev's words that Manas base should be turned into an international transit center, a stop off on the trade route between the West and East are also under a question, expert said.
"Turkey didn't show much interest in investing or participating in the transit center idea during Atambayev's recent meetings with Turkish officials, probably because mountainous Kyrgyzstan is unlikely to ever be a major stop-off on trade routes between East Asia and Europe," he added.
Pannier believes that there are too many other options, especially train routes that go through Russia.
The U.S. probably would like to continue using Manas after 2014 for pretty much the same purpose it uses the base now, exactly as part of a supply route to and from Afghanistan, he added.
"If that is what Atambayev is planning he should be careful and look at the Aini airbase in Tajikistan as an example," Pannier said. "Tajikistan modernized the Soviet-era base with the idea someone would lease it the way the U.S. leases Manas. There were not any takers and it now appears if Russia doesn't agree to use anyone will".
The Transit Centre at Manas was opened in late 2001 after the U.S launched its operation in Afghanistan. At present, it accommodates about 1,200 U.S soldiers. According to Pentagon statistics, the base handles up to 15,000 coalition servicemen and 500 tons of cargoes a month.