U.S. forces have begun the process of relocating from a Kyrgyzstan base that was one of the first set up overseas in 2001 to prosecute the invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.
The Transit Center at Manas, adjacent to Manas International Airport, will be handed over to the government of Kyrgyzstan by July 2014.
“The U.S. intends to continue supporting Kyrgyzstan's democratic and economic development, and we look forward to further developing our bilateral relationship in the years ahead,” the Defense Department said in a statement released Oct. 24.
The transit center was a critical air refueling base and a major hub of U.S. and coalition forces moving in and out of Afghanistan starting in late 2001.
The departure of American and allied forces from Manas next July will come more than five years after Kyrgyz lawmakers voted to shutter the base because of disagreements over how much the U.S. should pay to use it.
Under the deal finally worked out, the U.S. raised its annual rent for the base from about $17 million to $60 million. But it also sweetened the deal with pledges of $117 million for improvement to airport facilities, economic development, anti-terrorist training, and drug-fighting initiatives, according to reports at the time.
The same deal also included changing the name from Manas Air Base to The Transit Center at Manas, marking the third name for the installation since it was established in December 2001.
It was first named Ganci Air Base by American forces that set it up only three months after terrorists crashed jetliners into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York City. The base was named for New York Fire Chief Peter J. Ganci Jr., who died with hundreds of other firefighters when the WTC towers collapsed.
After Air Force officials said overseas bases could not be named for American citizens, the name was changed to Manas Air Base, after nearby Manas International Airport. Its original namesake continued to be honored with “Pete’s Place,” the base’s all-ranks club and recreation center, and on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2011, the base’s Pete Ganci Heritage Hall featured videos and displays commemorating the day.
In its statement on Thursday, the Defense Department expressed its appreciation to Kyrgyzstan for supporting U.S. and coalition efforts in Afghanistan and “respects the decision of the Government of Kyrgyzstan to end hosting the TCM after more than 12 years.”