Day 98, February 5, 2009
JUST POLITICAL POSITIONING?
That is what the US Military spokesman makes of Kyrgyz parliament's planned session to discuss the closure of the Manas Air Base near the capital Bishkek.
The last couple of days have put Kyrgyzstan into the rare position of being in the news spotlight and gotten American news anchors and editors scrambling to locate the Central Asian republic, and just how do you spell it again?
The reason for the importance of this air base is that it is the only remaining American military base left in Central Asia, after the closure of the one in Uzbekistan. It will hence provide a crucial outpost for the supply route to Afghanistan that is being proposed through Central Asia, which will serve as a much-needed alternative to the existing one passing through restive hostile territory in Pakistan.
The Kyrgyz are now considering giving the Americans just six months notice to leave and the reason being they are not getting enough out of hosting the Americans, while Russia is dangling purportedly more lucrative incentives the other way.
General Petraeus had made a whirlwind tour of the region just two weeks ago and come away with an assurance that the Mana base will not be closed. (See previous post on this.)