Kyrgyzstan announces decision to close US base

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A spokesman for the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan stated on Friday that its decision to close down a United States military base is "final". The base is an important supply route for NATO and U.S. operations in nearby Afghanistan.

"The decision has been made," said Kyrgyz spokesman Aibek Sultangaziyev. "The U.S. embassy and the [Kyrgyz] foreign ministry are exchanging opinions on this, but there are no discussions on keeping the base."

The announcement contradicts statements from both Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. saying that talks about the base are still in progress.

The President of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, disclosed plans about shutting down the base on Tuesday while in Moscow, soon after receiving US$2 billion worth of aid from Russia. However, the Kyrgyz government says that the two moves are not related.

U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said that there was no official word from the Kyrgyz government upon the status of the base.

The U.S. has meanwhile requested to transport supplies through Russia instead. The neighboring country of Tajikistan has offered to allow the transport of non-military goods to Afghanistan.

Currently, most shipments by NATO and the US come into Afghanistan through neighboring Pakistan, but NATO has become concerned about the safety of that route, as transport convoys have become increasingly under attack from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The closing of the base comes at a critical time for the U.S., as the nation is planning a large increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.