Kyrgyzstan is open to extending U.S. military access to the Manas Transit Center, used to supply U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, following the planned 2014 departure of the troops.
“If the American government officially requests prolongation of our bilateral agreement, we will certainly consider it in due course,” Talaibek Kydyrov, Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a written answer to questions. “Transit facilities and infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan could play an even more effective role after 2014 for the security and stability in the region.”
Kyrgyzstan previously suggested the U.S. would have to leave the Manas base after 2014. The base will become a civilian hub, the Russian news service Interfax said on Aug. 30, citing Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev.
The U.S. is paying $77.1 million a year for use of Manas, according to the Congressional Research Service. In May 2010, 55,000 troops passed through Manas, served by 850 soldiers and 750 contractors, according to CRS. The leasehold was renegotiated in 2009, when the yearly rent was raised to $60 million a year from $17.4 million. That excludes jet fuel payments and money paid for upgrades to the air base’s infrastructure.
“We clearly understand the role and significance of the Transit Center,” Kydyrov said. “Kyrgyzstan continues to prove its adherence to the efforts of the world community on settlement of the situation in Afghanistan in accordance with its international commitments. There is no doubt that, during its 10-year existence in Kyrgyzstan, the Transit Center considerably contributed in strengthening the security in Afghanistan and the region in the whole.”
Manas is one card Kyrgyzstan may play in its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. The land-locked former Soviet state is competing against Pakistan for a seat allocated to an Asian nation. UN members will vote on Oct. 21 for five new council members, who will serve two-year terms beginning Jan. 1.
It’s a strong play, according to John Heathershaw, a professor of International Relations at the University of Exeter who specializes in Central Asia.
“Most Kyrgyz feel that the primary American interest in Kyrgyzstan is that it serves as a means to an end, which is the mission in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are probably correct.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at email@example.com