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United States Resigns Itself to Losing Manas Air Base

When I started calling around Tuesday to the Departments of State and Defense about the prospective loss of Kyrgyzstan’s Manas air base, the critical facility for air-based resupply of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, I got pretty uniform answers. It’s not definite. We haven’t heard anything official. Negotiations are ongoing. A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that Kyrgyz President Bakiyev’s announcement that the United States would have to leave the base was merely “political positioning.”

Well, the first stage is denial. But the second stage — acceptance — appears to be dawning on American officials.

From The New York Times:

A senior State Department official said that negotiations with Kyrgyzstan over the base had been halted and that the alternatives under consideration included bases in Europe and the Persian Gulf, as well as a possible expansion of existing bases in Afghanistan. [...]

The senior Defense official said the closure “has all the earmarks of being a done deal.”

The Russians basically paid more money — $2 billion in loans — to the Kyrgyzstan government to deny the U.S. access to the base than Washington pays to lease it. Charmingly, The Times reports the Russians “took pains on Wednesday to reassure President Obama that they hoped to cooperate with him in Afghanistan and elsewhere.” Defense Secretary Bob Gates has told the Senate that he’s exploring ways to expedite the deployment of up to 30,000 new U.S. troops to Afghanistan ahead of this summer, which is currently the earliest they can get there. How will that happen without the only regional supporting airbase? Russia’s first gift to the Obama administration has been an elbow to the solar plexus.

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