This map is very important. (Click for a larger view)
Look for Kyrgyzstan (in orange just next to China). The US has an “air-mobility” base there called Manas where tanker planes that refuel warplanes flying over Afghanistan are stationed. It also is a major airlift supply base, medical evacuation center, and houses troops heading to and from the Afghanistan war.
Manas is also in a strategic spot in the great game of surrounding Russia and China that is now underway. The base would also a key operational hub for any war on Iran.
The government in Kyrgyzstan has just submitted a bill to its parliament that would close the US base. The Obama administration is not happy about this development.
Today China imports the vast majority of its oil and natural gas via ships through the Taiwan Straits. The US has been doubling its naval presence in that region in an attempt to have the ability to choke off China’s importation of these resources which are vital to its economy. Thus China wants to build land-route pipelines from the resource rich Caspian Sea region eastward into China. Again Kyrgyzstan sits right in the middle of the whole show.
The New York Times reports, “President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the decision to close the facility on Tuesday during a visit to Moscow to seek financial support. The closure would be a victory for Russian leaders, who saw the base as an American attempt to assert control in the region. And by eliminating a vital refueling and transport point for NATO forces, it would present a blunt challenge to President Obama’s highest foreign policy priority: the war in Afghanistan.”
One issue is money. The US has only been paying $63 million a year in rent for the Manas base. The Russians have just offered Kyrgyzstan billions in loans and aid as an inducement to kick the US out of their country.
Popular opinion in Kyrgyzstan is also turning against the US. The US obstruction of an investigation into the fatal shooting in 2006 of a Kyrgyz truck driver by a US soldier during a security check has not helped matters one bit.
The US moved into Manas in 2001, soon after 9-11, as part of the “war on terror”.
With things heating up in Pakistan, which is another major US transit supply route for the Afghanistan war, the closure of Manas would be a major strategic setback.
The Associated Press reports, “The threat of closure comes at a time when increasing attacks on transport depots and truck convoys in Pakistan have raised doubts about the country’s ability to protect vital supply routes — and increased the necessity for alternative routes through Central Asia. Some 75 % of U.S. supplies to Afghanistan currently travel through Pakistan.”
Serious hardball is going on these days in Central and South Asia. We’ve got to learn more about the region and keep our eyes closely on the happenings there.