The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic Erlan Abdyldaev handed U.S. Ambassador Pamela Spratlen a note on cessation of the intergovernmental agreement on the deployment of U.S. troops in the airport Manas starting July 14, 2014.
However, many analysts believe that the base is not being shut down, but rather, repurposed, and will still work for NATO, despite the fact that Kyrgyzstan is about to join the Customs Union (CU).
After the ceremony of the note transfer, the director of the presidential administration of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov confirmed to the media that no new agreements to extend the term of the U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan were considered, but said that Bishkek had other ideas. "... This does not mean that our cooperation with the U.S. will stop. Cooperation will continue, including in the field of security. There are several projects that we will be implementing."
He did not elaborate on what these projects were. However, this statement invites certain considerations. Manas airbase has been used to support U.S. military units in Afghanistan since 2001. Kyrgyz parliament approved the decision on their withdrawal this summer, and dismantling of the individual pieces of the equipment was commenced in July of this year. The Pentagon has confirmed that the base would be relocated to Romania. Under the agreement between Bishkek and Washington, the U.S. forces must leave the territory of Kyrgyzstan by July 14, 2014.
A theory has been discussed in the media that the base will remain, and only its name will change. This information comes from an orientalist, an expert on Central Asia and the Middle East Alexander Knyazev and Kyrgyzstan Radio Tochka www.radiotochka.kz/. They believe that now, like four years ago, the base is being prepared for repurposing, and that the vector of cooperation with the United States is being preserved. In light of Isakov's statements this is not an implausible assumption, especially given that there had been a precedent of such chameleon-like actions. Back in 2009, Kyrgyzstan first announced the termination of cooperation with the Americans, and then signed an agreement with the United States under which airbase Manas was renamed the Transit Center (TSC). Now we are talking about a "transport hub,""Knyazev said, referring to the statements of some Kyrgyz deputies.
The conspiracy theory suggests that President Almazbek Atambayev, in pursuit of his personal commercial gain, has signed a contract with Turkey, and through Turkey with the Pentagon on setting up a joint Kyrgyz-Turkish venture airport Manas that will be handed over to private companies working for NATO and the Pentagon. This way, under the guise of a civilian Turkish company, the Americans will continue to carry out military missions through Manas, including logistics in Afghanistan, support for NATO's air defense, and radar surveillance system covering all countries of Central Asia and parts of China.
Allegedly, a new aeronautical complex is being built for these purposes. It includes 26 radar stations scattered around the country (including, among others, Sary Tash in the Alai Valley, the area of Kaji Say in the Issyk-Kul region, and Tokmak). In addition, a new U.S. embassy building in Bishkek, or rather, the equipment located 30 meter underground, will work for these tasks. According to a Kyrgyz site, approximately 200 U.S. military from Manas officially are no longer the military, but were granted diplomatic status and employed as the embassy staff.
According to Knyazev, the main center of the U.S. military presence has moved to the south in Batken district of Kyrgyzstan. Approximately 50 Western non-profit organizations, mainly British and American ones, are active in Batken district. In conversations with experts about the transfer of the maximum activity of the OSCE to the south, head of the Military Department of the OSCE Mission in Bishkek Ross Brown (career officer MI6) said that in the north Kyrgyzstan was impeded by Russia. Knyazev said that two hotels were built in the area that remain empty now and are waiting for the influx of military personnel. Knyazev did not specify what objects NATO was planning to place there, but believes that their deployment "will be provided through the isolation of the district from the rest of the Kyrgyz Republic."
Kyrgyz experts are also quite skeptical about the promises of withdrawal of the Americans from the country and suggested not to rush with conclusions. A political analyst Mars Sariev told "Komsomolskaya Pravda -Kyrgyzstan": "It is too early to cross the dots on the issue of the center at this time. The Americans still have time to think and re-play the situation. One of the options is yet another name change." "The U.S. is unlikely to find a better place to keep an eye on Russia than Kyrgyzstan," said Konstantin Bogdanov, a military observer quoted by RIA Novosti. "For example, we know that an aeronautical tower is currently being built on the territory of Manas. Its height is about 25 meters, which likely means the military nature of this object," said the expert.
Will Kyrgyzstan have enough courage to play for both sides when the process of integration into the Customs Union has been started? Likely, the note to the embassy is an obvious and decisive move that highlights the government's intentions. Leonid Slutsky, head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots noted that Kyrgyzstan has taken another "important step" on the path to the CU: "The delivery of the note by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic notifying about the termination of the two agreements on Manas is a landmark development. This means the implementation of the joint positions of the presidents of Russia and Kyrgyzstan." The adoption of the road map on Kyrgyzstan's accession to the Customs Union was originally scheduled for August, then postponed to September, with the assurance that it is a "normal operational procedure."
But is it normal? "The situation in Kyrgyzstan is ambiguous and difficult. This is a very complex and multi-colored country both geographically and in political terms. There is radicalism, clan structure, tensions between north and south," told Pravda.Ru an employee of the Central Asian Studies Center Ivan Ippolitov.
"I agree that there is no 100 percent guarantee that the Americans will leave Manas given the experience of 2009. I would not dismiss the doubts expressed by the experts, they do exist, but I hope that the Kyrgyz leadership realizes how serious this issue is. Russia will not tolerate actions similar to those of 2009. Manipulation with the base is a completely dead end scenario. Mischiefs and jokes in this area are bad for everyone, and for the Kyrgyz in the first place," said Ippolitov.
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