Analysis: US may lose its most important base in Afghan war

Bakiyev

Bakiyev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
US Pentagon officials routinely describe the US Air Force base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, as “hugely important”. It became even more so in 2005, after the government of Uzbekistan shut down the US Air Force base in Karshi-Khanabad, under Russian pressure. Since then, the Manas airbase has become the “primary logistics hub” for the US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, as it offers US forces a vital northern supply line to Afghanistan “in the face of ongoing insurgent attacks along the Khyber Pass route through Pakistan”. Pentagon officials were therefore stunned when Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced last Tuesday that his government “has made the decision on ending the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and in the near future, this decision will be announced”. Some observers refer to partly political motives behind the President’s announcement: local opinion has been critical of the American military presence since two Kyrgyz women were run over by a US military vehicle a few years ago. Moreover, in 2006, a US guard at the Manas base shot dead a Kyrgyz truck driver outside the base’s main gates. Others, however, point to the coincidence of President Bakiyev’s announcement having come minutes after his government secured billions of dollars in Russian loans and aid. Moreover, security analysts were intrigued late last month by what has they described as “a Russian cyber-militia [attack that] effectively knocked the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan offline”. Depending on who you ask, this incident may or may not be related to Kyrgyzstan’s apparent decision to terminate US military presence on its soil. Confused? Nathan Hodge, at Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, has produced an excellent summary of the situation Kyrgyzstan. It is located here.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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