Afghanistan supply lines threatened by airbase eviction order
Kyrgyzstan gives U.S. forces 180 days to leave Central Asia transit base
Kyrgyzstan has given U.S. forces six months to leave a leased airbase used by planes ferrying troops and cargo to American and NATO operations in Afghanistan.
The move complicates U.S. plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, where more than 2,500 Canadians are part of a NATO force fighting insurgents, training Afghan forces and trying to promote economic development.
A top U.S. military official says, however, that neighboring Uzbekistan has granted permission for the transit of non-lethal cargo to Afghanistan. That would be a small victory in the U.S. hunt for new supply routes.
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry says it sent a formal notification of the closure of the Manas base to the U.S. Embassy on Friday. U.S. troops now have 180 days to leave.
A rent dispute, or Russian meddling?
Kyrgyzstan complained the United States was not paying enough rent. U.S. officials suspect Russia is behind an effort to push American military forces out of Central Asia.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a bill Friday to close the base, a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo that move to and from Afghanistan each month. Kyrgyz legislators voted overwhelmingly Thursday in favor of a government-backed bill to cancel the lease.
U.S. officials have said they consider talks on the future of Manas still open, indicating there could be negotiations about the amount paid for maintaining the base.
Bakiyev announced the closure earlier this month. His announcement came shortly after he secured $2.15 billion in aid and loans from Russia for his impoverished Central Asian nation. U.S. officials suspect that Russia, long wary of U.S. presence in formerly Soviet Central Asia, is behind the decision to shut the Americans out of Kyrgyzstan.
Complicates Obama's troop surge
The closing of the base could hamper President Barack Obama's calls for an increased military focus on Afghanistan.
The United States began using the Manas base shortly after it launched operations against Afghanistan for sheltering al Qaeda following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Manas has been the only remaining U.S. base in Central Asia since 2005, when Uzbekistan expelled the United States from the Karshi-Khanabad base near Afghanistan. The expulsion followed Western criticism of the Uzbek government's violent crackdown of a demonstration in the eastern city of Andijan.