US Military Base in Kyrgystan, One Step Closer to Closure
A US air base in Kyrgyzstan is threatened with closure while the US seeks to expand its military presence in Afghanistan, nearly doubling the number of soldiers to 60,000. IWPR writes that the “government bill submitted on February 4 which proposes that the air base agreement should be annulled. The debate will take place in the next week or so, and the bill is more than likely to be passed since the legislature is dominated by the pro-Bakiev party Ak Jol.”
If the bill is passed, the US will have 6 months to withdraw. It’s expected that the US and Europe will fiercely negotiate to retain the base during this period, and they may well succeed. One of the major sticking points seems to be that the government believes the lease payment it receives is much too small. Faced with growing financial difficulties during a time of global economic recession, the government may well be trying to find greater fiscal security.
According to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, the US pays $63 million in rent per year for the facility. He says that the base is “pretty inexpensive from the U.S. point of view when you consider what it gives us in terms of access in the region.”
Paul Rogers’, of peace studies at Bradford University, says that the closure “would be a painful event in any circumstance, not least as it may involve the Bishkek government making a deal with Russia that would further signal a changing geopolitical balance in the region. But the troubles the US and its allies are facing in Afghanistan means that this is a particularly bad time to be threatened with a loss of facilities and influence in another part of central Asia.”