U.S. refutes rumors of Kyrgyz base closing
The State Department has denied reports that the government of Kyrgyzstan plans to close the U.S. air base at Manas that serves as a key hub for troops and supplies headed to troops in Afghanistan.
"I’m not sure how this got started or who started such a rumor, but it is not true," Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said at a Thursday news briefing.
"Our charge d’affairs confirmed the fact that the Kyrgyz government is not taking such a step with the office of the [Kyrgyz] president."
A second U.S. official confirmed the information with the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs, McCormack said.
The status of the base came under question earlier this week, when the state news service published an interview with President Kurmanbek Bakiev.
In that interview, Bakiev was quoted as making the puzzling claim that, "Since there are no more military actions in Afghanistan, one can undoubtedly already talk about putting an end to the activities of the base at Manas."
A military spokesman in Afghanistan said there’s nothing to the reports, and public affairs officials at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., said they hadn’t heard the rumor.
"There’s nothing to it," said Col. Greg Julian, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. "There’s an existing contract for a number of years," he said, adding the rumored closure of Manas should have "no impact" on U.S. operations in Afghanistan.
As part of military planning, possible supply line disruptions, such as recent attacks on supply terminals in Pakistan, are taken into account.
"We’re constantly evaluating other options so that we can ensure we get equipment and supplies to troops," Julian said.
But U.S. military flights are "absolutely" still going in and out of Manas, he said.
The base is home to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, which includes roughly 1,000 military personnel from the U.S., Spain and France, according to the base’s Web site.