BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyz lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Friday to suspend an agreement on the use of an air base on its territory by U.S.-led coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers voted 80-1 in favor of rescinding the agreement with 11 countries on deploying their forces at the Manas air base, which acts as a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo each month to and from the Afghan campaign.
The Central Asian nation last month ordered the United States to vacate the Manas air base within six months. But the decision to deny use of the facility to other coalition members appears to undermine hopes it could be used under a different format.
Manas is occupied largely by American military personnel but has also accommodated smaller contingents of French and Spanish troops. Other countries with rights to use the base are Australia, Denmark, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea and Turkey.
A spokesman for President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said this week that Kyrgyzstan was willing to negotiate a new deal allowing U.S. troops to operate in the country. Bakiyev had complained the United States ignored repeated demands for an increase of the $17.4 million paid in annual rent for the base.
Bakiyev announced the closure shortly after Russia pledged $2.15 billion in aid and loans for the impoverished former Soviet nation. Russian and Kyrgyz officials insist that Moscow's aid package had nothing to do with the move to expel the U.S. military from Manas.
Losing Manas poses a serious challenge to President Barack Obama's plan to send up to 30,000 more American forces into Afghanistan this year to fight surging Taliban and Al Qaeda violence.
In an apparent conciliatory gesture, Bakiyev said this week that Kyrgyzstan was ready to provide a corridor for transit of non-lethal U.S. military supplies headed for Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan does not border Afghanistan, but similar transit agreements have been reached with Kyrgyzstan's neighbors Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which do share a border with the war-wracked country.