Manas base will remain important for U.S. even after NATO leaves Afghanistan

Kyrgyzstan Materials 27 March 2012 16:04 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 27 / Trend V. Zhavoronkova/

The U.S. Manas transit centre in Kyrgyzstan will remain important for NATO, even after the Alliance's troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, U.S. expert on Central Asia Alexander Cooley said.

The Central Asian countries continue playing an important role for the counterterrorist operation in Afghanistan, as well as the security of the whole region. Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have foreign military bases on their territories and attract attention of the world's high level officials.

Tajikistan is a country that acts as a key factor in the stability of the Central Asian region, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier told Tajik media outlets on Monday within participation in the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. Tajik Foreign Minister Khamrokhom Zarifi discussed cooperation with the U.S Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs - Robert Blake.

"The Central Asian countries continue to host critical bases that allow the NATO countries to perform their Afghanistan missions," Cooley, professor at Political Science at Barnard College of Columbia University wrote Trend in an e-mail.

The expert explained that for Germany, Termez base located in Uzbekistan is the main staging area for German troops, while for the United States, nearly every US soldier who enters or exits Afghanistan passes through the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan.

"Manas will continue to remain very important for US efforts even after the drawdown of US forces which is expected to be completed by 2014," Cooley said.

He believes that though the country's President Almazbek Atambayev has indicated that the base will be converted into a civilian facility in 2014, one should expect the U.S. and Kyrgyz side to reach an agreement that extends the lease as the United States continues its drawdown and transition in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan also remains an important security partner as it provides a number of important facilities, such as railways, roads and airports that allow for the shipment of goods and materials for NATO forces in Afghanistan, he added.

"But in terms of formal military bases, we should not expect any additional facilities to be opened by the United States or its allies in the Central Asian area over the next few years," Cooley added.

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.