Russian ally Kyrgyzstan closes strategic U.S. air base for good
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has signed a law passed by the country's parliament that gives the U.S. government until July 11, 2014 to vacate a key air force base.
The base was used by the American and NATO military for logistics transport to nearby Afghanistan. The vote was 91 to 5.
The air base, known in the U.S. military system as the Transit Center at Manas is located outside the capital city of Bishkek, with about 1,000 U.S. troops stationed there on a regular basis since 2001.
Russia views Afghanistan, a major area for radical Islamists and drug production, as a source of trouble for its growing drug epidemic and the militant Muslims among its population. As such, Moscow initially welcomed U.S. and NATO's military actions in Afghanistan.
As western nations, led by the U.S., contemplate their gradual but complete withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Russia has began to assert more influence and power in the region to prevent western influence in the post-withdrawal years.
Meanwhile, Russian weapons have been pouring into Afghanistan to aid post-NATO military operations. Many Soviet weapons service facilities have been re-activated in preparation for serving Russian weapons systems, especially Russian helicopter gunships.
The U.S. briefly considered stationing troops outside of Afghanistan after the withdrawal, to Russia's displeasure. Moscow has vehemently opposed such a move.
Almazbek Atambayev won the election in 2011 on a pro-Moscow ticket and is known for advocating for a stronger Bishkek-Moscow military alliance.