By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said on March 27, Washington is hoping to extend its deal with Kyrgyzstan’s government to continue using the Manas air base after 2014.
Speaking in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, Blake said the U.S. is grateful to Kyrgyzstan for being allowed to use the Manas base to support operations in Afghanistan since 2001.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has said many times that when the current U.S. contract to rent the base expires in 2014, Kyrgyzstan would not renew it. The U.S. and its allies have also set 2014 as the deadline for their drawdown of forces in Afghanistan.
Blake said talks on using Manas have not started yet but “we are ready to negotiate with the government of President Atambaev at a convenient time…the future of the transit center (Manas) and try to reach a new agreement on it.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visted Kyrgyzstan earlier in March to discuss the U.S. prolonging the use of Manas.
Responding to questions about the U.S. opening new bases in Central Asia, Blake said there was no possibility of that and added that Manas is not a base but rather a “transit center.”
Concerning the possibility that some weapons and military equipment being taken out of Afghanistan could be turned over to Central Asian states, Blake said “some countries in the region are interested in taking some equipment” and that currently U.S. military attaches are discussing this question.
Blake noted that according to the U.S. constitution there are restrictions on transferring some equipment.