US, Kyrgyz reach deal on using air base

Associated Press
June 24, 2009
By Leila Saralayeva

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — A parliamentary committee on Tuesday backed a deal that allows the United States to ship non-lethal military supplies through a Kyrgyz air base to Afghanistan — four months after the Central Asian nation ordered the eviction of U.S. troops from the base.

The accord to use Manas airport as “center of transit shipments” falls short of U.S. hopes of maintaining the facility as a full-fledged military air base. But it would provide a much-needed logistical support base as the U.S.-led coalition ramps up operations against the increasingly bold Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.

The deal was backed by the Kyrgyz parliament’s defense committee and now goes to the full parliament for a vote — expected later this week.

Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev told the committee that under the new agreement, rent for the base will increase to $60 million per year from the current $17 million.

U.S. officials at the embassy in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said they were unable to provide immediate comment on the deal. …