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US not to seek extension of contract for its air base in Kyrgyzstan

April 04, 2014, 0:15 UTC+3 BISHKEK
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BISHKEK, April 03, /ITAR-TASS/. The United States will not seek to extend the contract for the presence of its air base at Bishkek’s Manas International Airport, Nisha Biswal, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said in Bishkek on Thursday, April 3.

She said the decision to withdraw the U.S. troops had been made and it was final. They will leave Bishkek in July 2014.

Biswal said most of the troops and hardware had already been withdrawn from Manas and noted that the U.S. respected the Kyrgyz government’s decision to close the base.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev confirmed that there would be no more military presence at Bishkek's Manas Airport after the end of the agreement between Kyrgyzstan and the United States on the Transit Centre in 2014.

The president stressed that the agreement on the deployment of the U.S. troops at Manas ended in 2014 and after this date “no military component should be left at the airport”.

Atambayev has proposed many times to create a civil hub at the airport.

Transit Centre at Manas (formerly Manas Air Base and unofficially Ganci Air Base) is a United States military installation at Manas International Airport, near Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is primarily operated by the U.S. Air Force.

The base was opened in December 2001 to support U.S. military operations in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It has hosted forces from several other International Security Assistance Force member states as well. The base is a transit point for U.S. military personnel coming and going from Afghanistan. The base has good recreation facilities for soldiers (internet cafes, wireless internet, pool tables, free video games, telephones to DSN lines that allow a coalition forces to call their homes at little or no cost). The base has a large dining facility, gymnasium and a chapel. There is even a library where books and magazines are available for the active duty airmen there.

Several events, such as the shooting of a local civilian and rumours of fuel dumping, have led to strained relations with some of the local population. Regional powers such as Russia and China have been pushing for the closure of the base since 2005.

In 2009, then President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced plans to close the air base, but after long consultations with Washington it was renamed into the Transit Centre at Manas.

The Kyrgyz Transport Ministry is engaged in talks with foreign investors, including Russian ones, to discuss the possibility of creating a major logistical centre at Manas.

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