The U.S. military has stopped refueling tanker aircraft at a key air base in Kyrgyzstan while it renegotiates a fuel contract with the country's interim government to boost its long-term invasion in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said refueling for KC-135 aerial refueling tankers had been shifted from Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. The new refueling location was not disclosed for security reasons.
He said the move had not disrupted U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, and the movement of troops and material through the transit center at Manas had not been affected by the change.
"We're in discussions with them to determine the optimal way to procure fuel in the future," Whitman said. "While those discussions are ongoing, we have made some modifications, for example, our KC-135s are not flying out of Manas right now."
"By not having the KC-135s refuel there ... that's a significant way of conserving the fuel that you have there right now," he said. "In the meantime we continue to be able to provide all the necessary logistical support to Afghanistan."
The decision to renegotiate the fuel contract came last week, less than two months after a bloody revolt deposed Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and replaced him with interim President Roza Otunbayeva.
Bakiyev renewed the U.S. base lease in 2009 after initially saying the U.S. military would have to leave. Leaders of the interim government have charged that the former president and his family were corrupt and profited unfairly from deals like those for the fuel supply at Manas.
"If there are any concerns about such contracts, then the United States is prepared to review them and to be transparent," he said.
Whitman said the Manas fuel contract had a provision for renegotiation and the interim government had elected last week to take that step.
He downplayed concerns the Kyrgyz government might renegotiate other contracts.
"In fact, the interim government has made some very positive, encouraging statements about the future use of Manas," Whitman said.
ReutersLast Mod: 01 Haziran 2010, 23:25