By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
June 25, 2009 - The Kyrgyz parliament today ratified an agreement between the United States and Kyrgyzstan to extend U.S. access to Manas Air Base, a key logistics hub that supplies troops in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed today. The agreement must now go to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev for signature.
"It's not a done deal until the president signs it," Whitman said. "Out of respect for their processes, we've been trying to give them the time and space to give this the consideration that it needs."
The agreement provides for a transit center at Manas International Airport, operated by the United States, to provide logistical support to coalition forces in Afghanistan. About 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo move through the base every month, and the base's importance has increased as more troops deploy into Afghanistan.
Officials said on background that the United States agreed to pay $60 million a year to use the base, up from $17.4 million under the previous arrangement.
Today's vote, if approved by the president, reverses Kyrgyzstan's previous decision to end the arrangement the United States and Kyrgyzstan entered three years ago that gave the U.S. annual renewal rights through July 2011. Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry notified the U.S. Embassy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek in February that it had six months to leave Manas.
"We think it's to our mutual benefit," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told Pentagon reporters yesterday in anticipation of the parliament's vote. "They obviously have a great stake in what's happening in that region, as do we. And we look forward to continuing to work, with them to supply our troops in Afghanistan so that we can help with the overall security."
(John Kruzel of American Forces Press Service contributed to this article.)