BISHKEK -- U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake says talks about the future use of the Manas transit center in Kyrgyzstan are continuing.
The negotiations with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev are about any U.S. use of the airport after the planned withdrawal of most NATO-led troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"We are engaged in discussions now with the Kyrgyz Republic about the future of the [Manas] transit center," Blake told a news conference in Bishkek on January 17, "but I don't want to speculate about the outcome of such discussions."
Blake was asked about the possibility that the United States would set up new transit centers in Central Asia similar to Manas.
He said it will depend on the future negotiations with Kabul regarding the number of U.S. troops to be stationed in Afghanistan after 2014.
"[Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai visited with [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama last week and they described the process that is under way now to negotiate a bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that will help to determine the number of troops that the United States might keep on the ground in Afghanistan after 2014," Blake said.
Blake pointed out that last year, Washington paid Kyrgyzstan about $200 million in taxes, lease fees, and other payments for Manas. He highlighted other financial benefits Kyrgyzstan has received from the United States.
"We also discussed [with Kyrgyz president] the wide range of U.S. assistance programs to the Kyrgyz Republic, which includes more than $40 million over the last year and more than $1.3 billion since 1992," Blake said.
On January 16, President Atambaev reportedly told Blake that no military units or military equipment should remain at Manas by the end of 2014.
NATO is currently using the transit center at the Manas airport near Bishkek to send noncombat supplies to its troops in Afghanistan.
Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian military base near the northern town of Kant.
With additional reporting by KyrTAG and Interfax