Kyrgyzstan's President-elect promised to close the United States military air base when its lease expires in 2014 and replace it with a civilian transport hub operated jointly with Russia.
Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, who won 63 percent of the votes in a presidential election on Sunday, said on Tuesday that Kyrgyzstan would not renew the lease on the base situated at Manas, the country’s main civilian airport in the capital Bishkek and all U.S. military personnel must leave the Central Asian republic in 2014.
The Pentagon has used the Kyrgyz base since 2001 as a key supply centre for anti-Taliban operations in Afghanistan.“I don’t think the base at Manas guarantees the security of our country. I would not want to see another country carry out a retaliatory attack against the base. The civilian airport must remain civilian,” Mr. Atambayev said at his first post-election press conference.
The President-elect added that Kyrgyzstan may set up a “civilian transit facility, maybe jointly with Russia,” to haul cargoes to and from Afghanistan.Russia also has an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, which operates under the command of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a Russia-dominated defence pact of which Kyrgyzstan is a member.
Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev also promised to close the U.S. base after receiving a $2 billion Russian credit in 2009, but changed his mind after Washington agreed to sharply hike rent payments for the base. After Mr. Bakiyev was overthrown last year, the interim Kyrgyz leadership extended the base lease till 2014.