Closing Manas One Step Closer

The Kyrgyz parliament’s defense committee yesterday approved a bill to close Manas Air Base, a critical air mobility hub for supporting US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, reported the Associated Press. The measure now moves to the full parliament, which is expected to vote on it later this week. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev last week abruptly announced his intent to shutter Manas during a visit to Moscow where he cozied up to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Bakiyev’s move comes at a time when the Obama Administration is gearing up to increase the US troop presence in Afghanistan. US defense officials have said Manas’ closing would be unfortunate, but the US would find other means of sustaining operations in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, US and coalition personnel at Manas continue to perform their daily duties undeterred by the political developments surrounding them. “Until we are told that our mission has changed, we will continue to support coalition operations in Afghanistan as the premier air mobility and aerial refueling hub,” said Col. Christopher Bence, commander of the base’s 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. According to AP, the Kyrgyz government must give the US six months’ notice of eviction. (Includes Manas report by Maj. Damien Pickart)