BISHKEK, March 15 (Itar-Tass) — There has a rally in Bishkek near the US Embassy building demanding the withdrawal of the US airbase located at Manas airport in the country’s capital. Taking part in the action were about 20-30 people. “We do not want to wait for the withdrawal of the base for two more years, we demand that the US military leave the republic in a short time,” the protest action participants said. Otherwise, they are going to make it indefinite or transfer it to the walls of the military facility.
Some of the action participants carried posters with slogans in English: “Yankee, go home!” The protesters fear that in the event of further worsening of relations between Tehran and Washington a missile strike may be delivered on Manas. In addition, they argue that the US military destroy Kyrgyzstan’s nature, dumping jet fuel over its territory.
Earlier, President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev repeatedly said that in 2014 the term of the intergovernmental agreement with the United States on the deployment at Manas of the airbase of the international antiterrorist coalition expires, and Bishkek does not intend to extend the agreement. Therefore, by this time the US military will have to leave the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The president also proposed to in Bishkek a transit centre for the delivery of goods, instead of a military base. Secretary of the Kyrgyz Defence Council Busurmankul Tabaldiyev at a recent meeting in Bishkek with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Atambayev’s position. According to him, by the summer of 2014, no foreign military should be staying at Manas, but Bishkek is ready to create a civil air transit centre on the basis of the airbase.
The airbase of the coalition forces was opened in the Kyrgyzstani capital’s airport in December 2001. Initially, the military and equipment from several countries of the coalition were deployed there, but in recent years the US Air Force makes up the backbone of the grouping. The base is used to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2009, the authorities of Kyrgyzstan announced their intention to close the airbase, but after lengthy consultations with Washington, it was just renamed into the Transit Centre. Under the new arrangement the United States will pay $200 million per year for continued use of the facilities, three times the previous rent. Additionally, Kyrgyz forces now handle security in the areas surrounding the facility while American forces continue to provide security for the facility.
Last year, over half a million troops were transported through the base to Afghanistan and back.