UH OH ***Russia influences Kyrgyzstan to close key U.S. airbase***Submitted by ruralminnesota on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 00:20
Posted on Tue, Feb. 03, 2009
Russia influences Kyrgyzstan to close key U.S. airbase
By TOM LASSETER AND JONATHAN S. LANDAY
The U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban suffered two logistical blows Tuesday as the president of Kyrgyzstan announced that he'd shut a U.S. airbase in his country and insurgents in Pakistan blew up a bridge, disrupting the main U.S. supply route into Afghanistan.
The developments were the latest reminders of the vulnerability of the long and complex transportation system on which the 60,000 U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan depend for fuel, ammunition, construction materials and a great deal more.
The announcement by Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev that he will close the Manas Air Base also gave President Barack Obama a first taste of the challenge he faces from Russia, which is trying to restore its clout in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.
Bakiyev made his announcement in Moscow, not in his own capital, shortly after the Russian government reportedly agreed to lend Kyrgyzstan $2 billion, write off $180 million in debt and add another $150 million in aid. The timing and place of the announcement indicated the Kremlin's involvement.
"It's a direct challenge to the new American administration. Russia is going out of its way to close an American base," said Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based military analyst.
Manas is the main transit point through which U.S. troops fly into and out of Afghanistan. As such, it is vital to plans to send 30,000 more American troops to stabilize Afghanistan. A U.S. Air Force Web site calls it "the premier air-mobility hub" for U.S. and allied operations in Afghanistan, with about 1,000 military personnel from America, Spain and France stationed there.