Manas to Close (Updated)

The Kyrgyz parliament has voted to close the U. S.’s Manas air base, a primary route of supply for the NATO forces in Afghanistan:

BISHKEK (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted on Thursday to close the last remaining U.S. air base in Central Asia, dealing a blow to U.S. efforts to use the region as a jumping-off point for its growing campaign in Afghanistan.

[…]

President Barack Obama has made the campaign in Afghanistan his top foreign policy priority.

But U.S. efforts to diversify supply routes into Afghanistan after supply convoys were attacked by militants in Pakistan hit a stumbling block when Kyrgyzstan said it would close the last remaining U.S. air base in Central Asia.

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament backed a decision by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev — announced in Moscow after he secured a $2 billion package of aid and credit from Russia — to close the Manas air base 35 km (22 miles) from the capital Bishkek.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev said Washington would be given 180 days to wrap up operations after the parliamentary decision was signed into law.

Apparently Moscow was willing to outbid or out-threaten Washington on this matter.

Afghanistan is landlocked and is bordered only by Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, the latter three all being former Soviet Republics. Manas was our only air base in Central Asia. Now that Manas is to be closed we’ll either be even more dependent on the fragile overland route through the Khyber Pass, have yet another topic of interest to discuss with Iran, or need to negotiate a new base with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Turkmenistan, faint hopes at best. Sending more supplies via Azerbaijan is another alternative.

Whatever the outcome this makes re-supplying our soon-to-be-larger force in Afghanistan that much more difficult. And expensive.

UPDATE

RIA Novosti comments:

Russia, which has an airbase in Kant, a short distance from the Manas base, recently said it was ready to broaden cooperation with Washington on non-military supplies to Afghanistan via the so called “northern corridor,” which is likely to cross Russia into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan before entering northern Afghanistan.

For some reason I find this oddly resonant with Russia’s seeking to become the primary conduit for natural gas and oil into the European Union. Is this a bid to assert themselves as the indispensable nation?

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. davod says:

    The US and its allies spent over 50 years trying to keep post WWII Russia in a box. The high point being assisting the anti-government Afghanis into forcing a withdrawal by the Afghani government and the Russians.

    I can only imagine the hatred of America by many Russians especially any who were in government at the time.

    I just wonder how these Russians are feeling knowing that they are now in the position of letting the US and its allies slowly sink into the abyss. First, there will be the US and Europe separating from what was Eastern Europe. Then maybe Russian expansion into South America. Then finally cutting off the supply chain and forcing the US into a more ignominious defeat than the Russians, who at least could drive out of Afghanistan.

  2. Cernig says:

    Dave, here’s some more reporting on this matter:

    A US supply train for NATO troops in Afghanistan was set to leave Latvia Thursday, opening up a vital new route after Washington was shut out of ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, a source told AFP Thursday.

    “The freight (cargo) has left the city port and is waiting on a train platform to complete paperwork,” with the train due to leave Riga “within a couple of hours,” the source, familiar with the operation, said on condition of anonymity.

    The US embassy in Latvia had Monday said Washington was aiming to send 20-30 trainloads of supplies per week to Afghanistan via Latvia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

    The first train was due to carry 100 freight containers which had been shipped into the port of Riga, on the Baltic Sea.

    And my first thought was: “Uzbekistan? It was too despotic and torturous even for Bush’s taste!”

    Regards, C

  3. You would think out of $800 billion odd dollars in the stimulus package, we could have found $3 billion to out bid Moscow. I do have to wonder how people in other countries getting quid prop quo aid from the US are going to view the stimulus package vs what they get.

  4. Brett says:

    Yetanotherjohn has it right – why couldn’t we just outbid the Russians? It’s not that hard; if the Russian promise $3 billion in aid, we promise $6 billion. We have much more cash than them, and we can supplement it with other forms of aid.

    Of course, this is overlooking the possibility that the current Kyrgyz government is just Russia-friendly and wants to re-establish good relations with Moscow as part of a long-term strategy. It wouldn’t really be surprising (they were part of a governmental and economic union for decades before the 1990s).

  5. tom p says:

    Yetanotherjohn has it right – why couldn’t we just outbid the Russians?

    Hate to point out the obvious but, did anyone here notice how well taking US aid and buddying up with NATO worked out for Georgia?

    Maybe the Russains just made an offer the Kyrgyzi’s (?) couldn’t refuse.

  6. Richard Gardner says:

    Minor point, but Afghanistan does have a small remote border with China in the Badakhshan Province. Called the Wakhan Corridor, it is the long thin arm snaking through the Pamirs along the old Silk Road route. Even if China were to allow it to be used as a supply route, it is impassible most of the year and is simply too long a route.