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US general: Kyrgyz base will not close

US general: Kyrgyz base will not close

The head of U.S. Central Command said Monday he had been assured Russia did not put pressure on Kyrgyz authorities to close a key U.S. air base that supports military operations in Afghanistan.
Manas air base will be key to plans to boost U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by up to 30,000 soldiers in coming months, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, said here at the end of a weeklong tour of ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Russian media last week cited unidentified sources in the Kyrgyz presidential administration as saying Russia asked the impoverished Central Asia nation to close the base in exchange for a $2 billion package of loans and investment.
"The highest-ranking official I met with gave his assurances that the issue of Manas was not raised during his discussions in Russia about possible economic cooperation and assistance," Petraeus said.
The United States set up two major bases in former Soviet Central Asia to support military operations in Afghanistan, to the south, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Uzbekistan expelled U.S. troops from the base on its territory in 2005 in a dispute over human rights issues, leaving Manas as the only U.S. military facility in the region.
Russia has long been suspicious of the U.S. presence in what it considers its strategic backyard and has made little secret of wanting the Kyrgyz base shut down.
The United States currently pumps a total of $150 million into Kyrgyzstan's economy annually, including $63 million from renting Manas, Petraeus said.
Public anger at the U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan flared after a local truck driver was fatally shot by a serviceman in December 2006 during a security check at the entrance to the base.
The U.S. military originally said the driver threatened the serviceman with a knife, but Petraeus said the investigation into the death has been reopened.
Petraeus also said the United States has secured agreements to transport equipment for troops in Afghanistan through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
Pakistan closed a major land supply route to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan briefly Monday after suspected insurgents killed a soldier and wounded 14, adding urgency to efforts to secure alternative supply lines to the region.


Updated : 2021-10-20 17:09 GMT+08:00