U.S. operations at Manas affected by Kyrgyz unrest

By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 7, 2010

Read the latest on the situation in Kyrgyzstan here.

The U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan was temporarily closed on Wednesday amid anti-government protests that may have forced the country’s president to flee.

A U.S. official confirmed a media report that the airport at Manas, including the U.S. air base, was closed at 8 p.m. local time and would reopen 12 hours later.

Located about 19 miles northwest of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, the base is a major transportation hub for U.S. troops and supplies going to Afghanistan. The closure will delay some troops headed to Afghanistan, but the U.S. military is looking into other ways to get them there, a Defense Department official said.

In March, 50,000 U.S. and coalition troops moved through Manas in support of the surge in Afghanistan, making it one of the busiest months since the base started operating in December 2001.

The U.S. nearly lost access to this key transit point last year when Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted to evict the U.S. and shutter the base by August. After negotiations, a new deal that tripled rental fees was struck, allowing the U.S. military to continue operating at Manas.

Meanwhile, steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the personnel stationed at Manas, according to the Air Force.

“Due to operational security reasons we will not discuss specific details about protection of our personnel and assets,” said Maj. Rickardo Bodden, a spokesman for the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing.

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