The upheaval gripping Kyrgyzstan is disrupting the flow of troops and materials bound for Afghanistan. A Defense Department announcement stated that the American-operated Manas Transit Center, located outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, will remain closed to US military and contractor air traffic from April 8-12.
The American air hub outside Bishkek may have a new name -- the Manas Transit Center -- but its operational capabilities remain largely unchanged. The new lease agreement covering activities at the American facility does not differ substantially from the previous pact. The only major change is that Washington is now paying Bishkek a whole lot more in rent.
Even if the United States emerges victorious in the battle for Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan, it still faces a big challenge in winning the war in Afghanistan. The only likelihood at present is that Russia, through its meddling in Central Asia, will pose a major obstacle to US and European Union efforts to defeat the Taliban insurgency.
Opened in December 2001, the Transit Center at Manas serves as the main US and NATO military staging base for troops entering and departing the conflict in Afghanistan. The US Air Force military installation shares the runway with Kyrgyzstan's Bishkek International Airport.