By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
June 24, 2009 - The Kyrgyz parliament is expected to vote in the coming days on agreements reached between the United States and Kyrgyzstan governments to extend U.S. access to Manas Air Base, a logistics hub that supplies troops in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed today. While emphasizing that the United States is "not counting our chickens before they are hatched," Morrell expressed hope that the deal will go through.
If ratified, the agreements would provide for a transit center at Manas International Airport, operated by the United States, to provide logistical support to coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"We obviously are pleased that the Kyrgyz government has taken this agreement to its parliament to be ratified," Morrell said. "We anticipate that happening in the next couple of days, and we are ... very pleased with these developments."
The deal, if ratified, will reverse Kyrgyzstan's previous decision regarding the base.
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, a major logistical and refueling center that supports troops 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.
The decision was to end the arrangement the United States and Kyrgyzstan entered three years ago that gave the U.S. annually renewal rights through July 2011. The United States pays $17.4 million a year to use the base.
Morrell declined to specify how much the United States has agreed to pay to continue using the base, but said both countries appear satisfied with the renegotiated figure.
"We think it's to our mutual benefit," Morrell said. "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."