U.S. still wants Kyrgyzstan to keep Manas air base open
The United States said Friday that it has accepted an official confirmation on closure of a U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan, but that it still wants to discuss this issue with Bishkek, Xinhua reported.
"We have received confirmation, official notice," said State Department Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid, following President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a law that mandates the closure of the Manas air base in his country.
"We, however, remain in contact with the government of the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Manas air base continues to operate under the existing agreement in support of coalition efforts in Afghanistan," said Duguid.
"We also have an offer that we had made to the government to continue with the operation of the base. And that, as far as the U.S. is concerned, is still on the table, should they wish to discuss it," he said.
About 15,000 people and 500 tons of cargo monthly move in and out of the Manas air base, the only U.S. facility in central Asia and a key logistic center for American-led operations in Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama has approved the first combat deployment of his presidency, calling for an additional 17,000 troops in the coming months to Afghanistan.
The deployment, which will begin in May and will increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan by about 50,000 by mid-summer, has presented the administration with a tough question: How to meet supply demands for the troops following the closure of the Manas base?
The decision made by Bishkek "was not an unexpected move," said Duguid, adding "we have alternate basing options, and we're reviewing our contingency plans at the moment."
Reports said the Obama administration has been considering a resumption of military cooperation with Uzbekistan by re-renting the Khanabad Airport to use as its air base.
After receiving official notification on closure of Manas, the United States will have 180 days to withdraw about 1,000 military personnel who are currently deployed there.