USA — Gates Expresses Confidence in Continued Manas Access

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, April 13, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates expressed con­fi­dence today that polit­i­cal upheaval in Kyr­gyzs­tan won’t cause the Unit­ed States to lose use of an air base that’s crit­i­cal to sup­ply­ing oper­a­tions in Afghanistan.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates lis­tens to a ques­tion from Asso­ci­at­ed Press jour­nal­ist Anne Fla­her­ty while trav­el­ing to Lima, Peru, as part of a four-day trip to South Amer­i­ca, April 13, 2010.
DoD pho­to by Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Jer­ry Mor­ri­son

Gates told reporters trav­el­ing with him to Peru he has no rea­son to believe that Krygyzstan’s new leader, Roza Otun­baye­va, will renege on the lease for the tran­sit cen­ter at Man­as. Otun­baye­va took pow­er dur­ing unrest last week that oust­ed Pres­i­dent Kur­man­bek Makiyev.

“Every­thing I have been able to see or read sug­gests that there is a will­ing­ness to leave Man­as open and to con­tin­ue allow­ing our use out of it along the lines of the terms of the agree­ment,” Gates said.

He empha­sized, how­ev­er, that the Unit­ed States has oth­er options to sup­ply troops in Afghanistan in the event that the agree­ment falls through. “We looked at a lot of alter­na­tives last year when we were nego­ti­at­ing new base arrange­ments,” he said.

The Unit­ed States rene­go­ti­at­ed its lease for the base last year, tripling its rent when Kyr­gyzs­tan threat­ened to can­cel the lease agree­ment.

“There are oth­er alter­na­tives” to Man­as, Gates said today. “I don’t want to get into the details, but there are oth­er approach­es … and facil­i­ties that we can use.” Gates expressed hope these alter­na­tives won’t be need­ed, not­ing that they would be more expen­sive and logis­ti­cal­ly chal­leng­ing than the tran­sit cen­ter at Man­as, just out­side the Kyr­gyz cap­i­tal of Bishkek.

Gates also not­ed the open­ing of the north­ern dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work, which, along with ground routes through Pak­istan, now pro­vides much of the logis­tics sup­port for Afghanistan oper­a­tions.

“We have now deliv­ered over 10,000 con­tain­ers by the north­ern dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work, which is a huge accom­plish­ment,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)