Thursday, May 03, 2012 -
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev may not be as resolutely opposed to a continuing U.S. presence at the Manas Air Transit Center as he previously was, according to statements he made on Wednesday.
U.S. military presence at Manas will be decided based on Kyrgyzstan’s national interests, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported the president as telling the public broadcaster.
But he hinted that Russia, Kyrgyzstan’s major military ally, will have a lot to do with the ultimate decision.
“We need to consider the opinions of our strategic partners,” he said.
In previous statements, the Kyrgyz president insisted that the U.S. must vacate the air base in 2014. Atambayev said the continued presence of the U.S. military on Kyrgyz soil made it a target for attacks.
The U.S. relies on the Manas Air Transit Center to shuttle troops into and out of Afghanistan. The U.S. is expecting to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, but may continue to keep troops on the ground to ease in the transition, and would still need access to the Manas air base for this reason.
He has also expressed concern that the U.S. may launch an attack on Iran from Manas, which the U.S. has emphatically denied.