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Kyrgyz Parliament Approves Closure of Strategic US Air Base

Kyrgyzstan's parliament has approved the closure of a US air base on its territory, which has been crucial for supplying US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

US Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo plane

The US said it would find other means of transporting supplies to Afghanistan

The decision was overwhelmingly passed on Thursday, Feb. 19, with 78 votes for and one vote against, Russian news agencies reported. It comes one day after US President Barack Obama ordered 17,000 more forces to Afghanistan to combat a growing Taliban insurgency.

The United States has 180 days to close the Manas facility -- the only US air base in Central Asia -- the head of the country's security council, Adukhan Madumarov said earlier.

The US State Department said it was still in talks with the Kyrgyz government and would wait for President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to sign the legislation into law before beginning its official withdrawal.

Contingency plans were already underway and spokesman Gordon Duguid insisted the base's closure would have no real impact on the US and NATO's Afghanistan operations.

"We will be able to continue our operations in Afghanistan fully and completely. The Pentagon is renowned for its ability to move troops, equipment, and other material to all parts of the world," Duguid said.

Possible influence from Russia

Russia has agreed to allow supply routes for NATO and US troops to Afghanistan through its southern territory.

There has been speculation that Russia had intensified pressure on the former Soviet republic to terminate the lease.

While Moscow had approved setting up the base in 2001 to support operations in Afghanistan, Russian officials have long been suspicious of the US military presence in the region.

Russia has denied allegations that a $2-billion aid package to financially-strapped Kyrgyzstan acted as an incentive to speed up the closure.

Obama has vowed to scale up the US presence in Afghanistan as he draws down troops from Iraq. Other NATO members are also facing pressure to add to the US' troop commitment.

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