So, If Not Manas, What Bases Can We Use for Afghanistan?
I didn’t get many specifics from Pentagon when I asked about alternatives to the soon-to-be-lost Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan for resupplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan. And when I asked experts like John Pike and Vikram Singh about using the Dushanbe airport in nearby Tajikistan, the response I got was basically meh, I dunno. Too many improvements would be necessary to the Soviet-era airstrip for all the heavy U.S. equipment.
Nathan Hodge — who, unlike me, has actually been to Manas — has a similar take over at Danger Room:
What, then, are the alternatives? Well, the United States used to have another Central Asia base at Karshi Khanabad, Uzbekistan [K2]. But getting access to K2 means making nice with dictator-for-life Islam Karimov, not a pleasant prospect. The United States has also used the airport in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as a refueling stop. Tajikistan shares a border with Afghanistan, but since its independence, that country has had a pretty volatile history (for that matter, Kyrgyzstan isn’t the placid “Switzerland of Central Asia” that its boosters once hoped for).
It hadn’t occurred to me that the Obama administration would want to go hat-in-hand to as vile a dictator as Islam Karimov to get access back to the K2 base that the U.S. lost in 2005. Chances are the administration won’t really want to do that. Then again, as Hodge writes, there really aren’t many alternatives: “Anyone feel like reaching out to Iran yet?” If not Dushanbe, where?