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US gives up on Central Asian base

The United States has turned its back on what could have been a thrilling episode in the Great Game in Central Asia. The Pentagon announced on Friday that the US is vacating Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan by July 2014, as demanded by Bishkek. 

Instead, the US is setting up a logistics hub in Romania to back up troop rotation in Afghanistan. Curiously, Romania is also permitting the US to deploy its Aegis Ashore missile defence system at the American base at Deveselu.
If Kyrgyzstan hoped that the US would bargain, that is not to be. Bishkek is going to lose a lot of revenue. In 2012 the lease of Manas to the US brought in $142 million into the Kyrgyz economy, aside generating hundreds of jobs. 
Someone will have to make up because Kyrgyzstan is a desperately poor country. The IMF expects that the “closure of the Manas Transit Centre is creating headwinds” for the Kyrgyz economy. 
Obviously, the US military presence in Afghanistan is going to be on a much smaller level, which means logistic burdens will ease on the Pentagon, and it doesn’t really matter that Romania is 2300 miles from Kabul, whereas Manas is just 640 miles away. 
The Kyrgyz government hopes to transform the former American base into a “civilian transit hub,” but that’s easier said than done. The region is crawling with “transit hubs” with almost every country offering one —  Urumchi (China), Almaty and Astana (Kazakhstan), Navoi (Uzbekistan), Ulyanovsk (Russia), Baku (Azerbaijan). Manas’ prospects look bleak.
In geopolitical terms who stands to gain? Undoubtedly, Russia and China. Both wanted the American base to be shut down — Moscow even overtly so. This even figured as a collective SCO demand in 2005 following the upheaval (“Tulip Revolution”) in Kyrgyzstan, but Washington managed to negotiate a new lease at enhanced rent. That sense of urgency is no longer felt in Washington today, given the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014.  
All the same, there is poignancy in the US decision insofar as a thrilling 12-year slice of Central Asian politics is drifting away. The US military bases in Central Asia came up in the wake of the American intervention in Afghanistan. The American presence created space for the Central Asian regimes to negotiate with Moscow and Beijing. 
Indeed, there is an overall lowering of the US’ strategic profile in Central Asia lately. China has surged in the region and the interplay of Russian and Chinese interests is yet to begin. For the present, they are committed to “pragmatic cooperation.”

Posted in Diplomacy, Military, Politics.

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3 Responses

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  1. Navi Reyd says

    “Why did Kyrgyzstan vote to kick the Americans out despite the huge profits it was making from Washington? Russia! The Russians offered Kyrgyzstan a $ 1.1 billion arms package in exchange for the ouster, and also wrote off a big chunk of that nation’s debt. It’s no coincidence that the Kyrgyz Parliament voted to end America’s lease just a few days after Vladimir Putin visited. This was a big win for Moscow, which has been growing increasingly assertive in Central Asia”.

  2. Debasish Sarkar says

    Not very impressive article. Due to advent of Anti-Missile-Missile System, Charlie doesn’t need a permanent Central Asian base at Manas. And this base shift manoeuvre will be very cost effective for Pentagon. Romania Will gain and Kyrgyzstan will lose financially but gains freedom from preoccupation in theoretical sense. Russia will be in great trouble because Her Missile Systems will be in very vulnerable position and become toothless, because this American Anti-Missile-Missile Systems will effectively neutralize Russian Missile-bites.
    Another most important issue, which Author probably missed out. That Charlie will not leave Affghanistan at all, because of Commie-Chinese threat. is looming over south-east Asia. China’s expansion over ASEAN [Including India] countries of It’s Hegemonic influencing tendency over SA, that Charlie won’t accept or tolerate in any way. That is why Americans and Britishers have started lobbying with new party which will about to win the Risinah Hill in this coming Election in 2014. Another interesting point-The current Indian Administration is determined that, they will not abandon Paki-regime with any cost, and that brought tremendously Frustration in Charlie. The existence of Pakistan is solely depends on Charlie’s Finance and India’ s non aggressive stance toward Pakistan. This is a Catch-22-situation. But this scenario will change soon.

  3. biswanath roy says

    Small countries like Kyrgyzstan can show USA the door,but India doesn’t have the courage to even take up the matter of US’s NSA snooping on our leaders and citizens. Our PM instead of showing displeasure,only whimpered,when he met Obama in Washington in September 2013.

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