Kyrgyzstan will shut a key United States airbase in July next year despite Washington’s efforts to retain the facility beyond its forces drawdown in Afghanistan.
The Kyrgyz government is sending a closure motion to Parliament, said an announcement posted on the cabinet website on Tuesday.
The Pentagon has been using the airbase, which sits at Kyrgyzstan’s main civilian airport Manas in the capital Bishkek, since 2001 as a major supply centre for Afghanistan. It hosts about 1,500 U.S. troops and operates round-the-clock, with planes hauling thousands of troops and hundreds of tonnes of cargo every month.
Russia, which is opposed to American long-term military presence in Central Asia, has long been lobbying for the base closure with the Kyrgyz authorities. Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, ousted in 2010, promised to close the facility after Moscow offered him a $2 billion credit line in 2009. The Kyrgyz Parliament even passed a law to close the base and Mr. Bakiyev signed it, but changed his mind when Washington tripled the rent and renamed the airbase into a transit centre.
Shortly after taking office in November 2011, incumbent President Almazbek Atambayev again pledged to shut the base and to turn it into a civilian cargo transit hub between Europe and Asia. Russia, which also has an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, last year extended its lease till 2032.