Timing is everything.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted Thursday to close a key U.S. air base in the country – a move that could hamper President Barack Obama’s efforts to increase the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Deputies voted 78-1 for the government-backed bill to cancel the lease agreement on the Manas air base, a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo each month to and from Afghanistan. Two deputies abstained.
If President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signs the bill and Kyrgyz authorities issue an eviction notice, the United States will have 180 days to vacate the base.
“The decision to shut the American base reflects the will of the Kyrgyz people,” said Nurbyubyu Kerimova, a deputy with the pro-government party that overwhelmingly dominates parliament in the former Soviet bloc nation.
Bakiyev unexpectedly called this month for the closure of Manas, complaining that the United States was not paying enough rent for the base.
His announcement of the base closure was made in Moscow, shortly after Russia offered his impoverished country $2.15 billion in aid and loans. Analysts say the closure and the aid appeared to be linked, although officials deny any connection.