Kyrgyzstan to Shut Only US Air Base in Central Asia

Announces as Russia offers billions in aid
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2009 7:30 AM CST
US soldiers open the gates of a military base, which is located within Manas civilian airport, near Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009.   (AP Photo/Igor Kovalenko)
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(Newser) – The fate of America's only military base in Central Asia was in doubt today after the president of Kyrgyzstan announced plans to shut the facility, reports the New York Times. The Manas Air Base serves as a refueling station for NATO fighter jets traveling to Afghanistan. But during a visit to Moscow, the Kyrgyz leader said the US had not paid enough for use of the base. At the same meeting Russia announced a multibillion-dollar loan and aid package to Kyrgyzstan.

As of today the officers at Manas have insisted that the refueling missions for American and NATO troops were continuing. But the closure of the base, if it happens, will hamper the American war effort in Afghanistan, which President Obama has called his highest foreign policy priority. It also represents a diplomatic coup for the Kremlin, which has long been wary of Kyrgyzstan's close relations with the US.