US to use Romania as transit point for troops
WASHINGTON (PAN): The United States on Friday secured an agreement with NATO ally Romania to use its Black Sea airbase as a transit point for American troops and military equipment leaving Afghanistan after closing the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan in July.
Under the deal, the US will shift its flight operations to Romania's Mihail Kogalniceanu air base from the Manas Transit Center, a contract expiring in July, 2014.
The United States and its allies are preparing to pull out most combat forces and military equipment from Afghanistan by the end of next year.
The deal was announced as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held talks October 18 in Washington with Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa.
A Pentagon statement said the two sides "finalized an agreement for Romania to support logistics into and out of Afghanistan, including both personnel and cargo movement.”
The United States currently has more than 50,000 troops in Afghanistan, and will need to transfer huge quantities of vehicles and weapons out of the country over the next year to meet the deadline of withdrawing combat forces by the end of 2014.
The United States has been paying tens of millions of dollars annually to use the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan, which ruled out extending US use of the base past mid-2014, rents a second base on its territory, Kant, to Russia.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the United States “appreciates the support provided by the Kyrgyz people to US forces and coalition efforts to counter the threat of terrorism and to achieve security and stability in Afghanistan and the region.”
It said Washington “respects the decision” of the Kyrgyz government to end renting the base to the United States after more than 12 years.
The statement added that the United States “intends to continue supporting Kyrgyzstan's democratic and economic development,” and looks forward to “further developing our bilateral relationship in the years ahead.”
Concerning ties with Romania, the Pentagon said the United States has also thanked Romania for agreeing to host the land-based US Aegis Ashore missile defense system.
This is part of a Europe-based anti-missile system aimed at guarding against potential missile launches by Iran or another actor.
A groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the Aegis site, which will include radar and missiles, is due to be held at Deveselu in Romania later this month.
The US statement also welcomed Romania’s decision to purchase 12 used U.S. F-16 fighter jets from Portugal, saying “this significant investment in air superiority capabilities will open the door for greater regional collaboration and will be valuable to future NATO and coalition operations.”
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the agreement was reached on Friday. “Hagel and Dusa finalized an agreement for Romania to support logistics into and out of Afghanistan, including both personnel and cargo movement,” Little said.
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