(Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted on Thursday to approve a government proposal to close a U.S. air base in the Central Asian nation which is a transit point for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan.
Here are some facts about the base.
— Kyrgyzstan was the target of cross-border raids by Islamic guerrillas in 1999 and 2000. It embraced Washington’s campaign to root out Afghanistan’s Taliban and invited U.S. forces to launch operations from its territory.
— Manas air base is 35 km (22 miles) from Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of three former Soviet republics in Central Asia that allowed in Western troops after the September 2001 attacks on the United States.
— U.S. forces set up the air base in Kyrgyzstan when they overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan late in 2001.
— In July 2006, the United States agreed terms with Kyrgyzstan to carry on using the air base to support operations in Afghanistan.
— The closure of the base poses a new challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans, announced this week, to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to boost NATO and U.S. military efforts to defeat Taliban insurgents.
However the United States and its allies already fly troops and supplies from bases in Europe and the Gulf and could increase this traffic to make up for the loss of Manas air base.
The United States is also looking at other land routes through Central Asia as alternatives to Pakistan, where supply convoys have been attacked by Taliban militants.
— General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, visited Uzbekistan on Tuesday. Ties with Uzbekistan have improved and a Western diplomat said this month Washington was close to signing a deal with the Central Asian state to allow U.S. non-military rail cargo to go through the country.
— The base is home to the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing and serves as the main hub for the International Security Assistance Force and Coalition military operations in Afghanistan.
— Missions from the base include aerial refueling, combat airlift and airdrop, and medical evacuation.
— The base also provides support for coalition personnel and carrying cargo to and from Afghanistan.
— Approximately 1,000 military personnel from the United States, Spain and France are assigned to the base, along with 650 U.S. and host-nation contractors. There are roughly 65 Spanish and 35 French troops at the base.
— Around 15,000 people and 500 tons of cargo go through the base every month, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
— The U.S. government pays $17.4 million per year for access and use of the base, Whitman said, with total U.S. government assistance to the country about $150 million a year.
— Coalition aircraft flying to and from the base include U.S. KC-135s, Spanish C-130s and French C135FRs.
— Manas has a 13,800-foot long runway, built for Soviet bombers. The facility covers 37 acres.
Sources: Reuters/Manas website:/globalsecurity.org