Future of Manas Airbase

The sudden changes and unrest in Bishkek has to do a lot with Afghanistan. The American operation from Manas Airbase  supplies NATO and the US troops in Afghanistan. Though Washington and Moscow have rejected a rivalry in Bishkek, but it has been the de facto root cause of all the sudden change. In February 2009 President Bakiyev announced to close the US Airbase and Moscow pledged $2.15 billion aid, but the American operation still continued. Then later Russian media started a criticism campaign against Bakiyev. The population in Central Asian countries are much influenced by the Russian media, mainly because of language and the curbs on local and international media in these former Soviet states. Later Moscow implemented  custom duties on Russian gasoline and diesel exports to Kyrgyzstan. The prices went skyrocketing and fueled the flame of crisis and public unrest in Bishkek.

The US kept silence on the increasing autocratic behavior of Bakiyev and the huge nepotism, corruption and violation of human rights. The silence was all about the Manas Airbase, to keep operating. After the takeover of interim-administration, already US operations from Manas have been suspended temporarily. This Airbase has the very vital role in the operation of the US forces in Afghanistan. It provides fuel for the US aircrafts missions and transits other military supply. Pentagon says measures have been taken to continue the supply to the operations in Afghanistan.

The future of Manas Airbase is in doubt. It depends on how far will the new Moscow supported interim administration in Bishkek go on to halt the base or restrict it. Rather than the Administration in Bishkek, it depends more on the affairs between Washington and Moscow. President Obama and Dmitry Medvedeve have already discussed the uprising in Kyrgyzstan. Both the leaders have agreed “cooperation” on the crisis. Moscow has got a good bargaining chip on Washington that excessively supported President Bakiyev and turned a blind eye towards his anti-democratic moves against media and the corruption in his administration. This made the opposition already more critical towards the US. The US operations from Manas Airbase might be restricted, but Moscow may not support a halt of the operations for Afghanistan from Manas. Its will have no gain by doing that, but will get a bargaining chip and influence-card over Washington. They will not want the crucial war with Taliban be affected which can affect Russia, where Islamic militants killed dozens of people the other week.

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