Friday, February 6, 2009
Kyrgyzstan said on Friday its decision to shut a U.S. air base was final, dealing a blow to Washington’s efforts to retain what has been an important staging post for U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.
The United States said it was still “engaged” with Kyrgyzstan about keeping the Manas base in the poor, former Soviet republic and traditional Russian ally. But one senior Kyrgyz official said no talks were currently taking place.
Kyrgyzstan’s stance has set a tough challenge for new U.S. President Barack Obama, who plans to send more troops to Afghanistan to try to boost NATO efforts to defeat Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.
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The standoff over the tiny but strategically placed nation marks a new twist in an escalating power struggle in Central Asia reminiscent of the 19th-century “Great Game” between tsarist Russia and the British Empire.
“The air base’s fate has been decided,” Adakhan Madumarov, secretary of the Kyrgyz Security Council, told reporters.
“I see no reason why the air base should remain in place now that this decision has been taken … We are not holding any talks on this,” he added, hinting there will be no further discussions with Washington on the air base.
This article was posted: Friday, February 6, 2009 at 1:44 pm