It looks like the United States is going to stay in Kyrgyzstan to Russia’s great disappointment. The government of the former Soviet nation in Central Asia has changed its mind about the withdrawal of US troops from the airbase at Manas Airport.
The dispute about the fate of the US airbase at Kyrgyzstan’s Manas, which plays a very important role in terms of maintaining NATO troops in Afghanistan, continues. The government of the Asian nation previously decided to close the base and passed the adequate law on April 2 of this year.
However, it transpired yesterday that the US troops are not going anywhere. They will keep the base if it is going to be used solely for the delivery of cargoes to Afghanistan. The governments of Turkey and Afghanistan addressed to Kyrgyzstan with a suggestion, which the poor nation could not decline: a billion dollars of investments in the country’s economy in return to the promise to keep the Manas base.
The Manas base is 23 kilometers far from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The base is located on the territory of the international airport that bears the same name. US troops appeared at the base in the beginning of 2002, after Washington and Bishkek signed the lease agreement in December of 2001. Spanish and French troops appeared at the base later.
The USA was paying a relatively small amount for the use of the base in Kyrgyzstan – only $2 million a year. For your information, the USA pays a lot more for the lease of other less important bases. Other countries may charge the United States for one single landing or takeoff of an airplane. The price may vary between $5-14 thousand.
The Manas airbase was primarily used to station C-17 Hercules transport planes and KC-135 refueling aircraft to service the needs of NATO troops in Afghanistan. The base gained even more importance in the autumn of 2005 after the United States ruined its relations with Uzbekistan and was forced to pull out from the airbase at Karshi-Khanabad.
The friction began in May 2006, when Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev demanded the USA and its allies should pay a much higher price. The parties agreed on $150 million a year.
The situation took a different turn when a US military man shot a Kyrgyz national, an employee of the base, on December 6, 2006. About a week later, the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan demanded the conditions for the US military presence in the nation should be revised.
Russia interfered in the matter of the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan two years later. Russia offered a two-billion-dollar loan to the nation and asked the government of the nation to close the base in return.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the decision to finally close the Manas base on February 3, 2009. The adequate law appeared on April 2.
Now it turns out that Kyrgyzstan has changed its mind again, which may mean that the recent decision is not final either.
“It looks like Kyrgyzstan will remove the base sooner or later. First of all, the government and the parliament of the nation passed the adequate decrees. In addition, the US military began to dismantle the base two weeks ago. However, the airbase at Manas is extremely important for the USA to maintain the military contingent in Afghanistan. Therefore, the US administration may try to offer something new to keep the base. It is extremely expensive for the United States to deliver cargoes to Afghanistan from the south – from Pakistan, for instance. One meter of distance reportedly costs one dollar. It is worthy of note that the airbase in Kyrgyzstan is NATO’s second largest base in Europe.
“Russia’s stance remains unchanged here. The presence of US troops in Kyrgyzstan endangers Russia’s security. The struggle against the Taliban does not seem to be a convincing reason at all. The USA could have destroyed the Taliban a long time ago,” Anatoly Tsyganok, an analyst with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis told Pravda.Ru.
Igor Rodionov, Russia’s former Defense Minister, shares a different point of view.
“Even if Russia loses the fight for the Manas base, it will not be a tragedy. There is nothing important about it taking into consideration other things, which Russia lost to the USA in big politics. The Americans will pay a billion more to Kyrgyzstan, and they will stay there. Kyrgyzstan is just another example that shows that Russia tries to take a grip on any ruler to make him an ally, even if he simply wants to gain profit from his relations with Russia. It is yet another proof to show that no one respects Russia,” the official said.