Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Ploy, Redux

According to Defense News, the only real change at the Manas base supplying the Afghanistan war will be in its name: instead of calling it an air base, it will now be called an transit corridor. Besides the nomenclature, though, the military activities, mainly basing tankers for refueling missions, will continue. According to RIA Novosti, Russia’s okay with the sleight of hand, with President Dmitry Medvedev calling the “transit center” a contribution to the fight against the joint terrorist threat. The fact that the lease was only extended for a year strongly suggests we haven’t heard the last of this.

On a related note, the base at Manas is also home to a small French contingent, and yesterday, Le Monde credited France’s special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, Pierre Lellouche, with playing a role in the Kyrgyz government’s decision to extend the lease.

Lellouche was just swept up in the cabinet shuffle announced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. A vocal Antlanticist and prominent supporter of an American alignment for French foreign policy, Lellouche will be the secretary of state for EU relations. No word yet on whether that will remove him from the Afghanistan-Pakistan desk, but it does offer an interesting insight into Sarkozy’s thinking on the balance between France’s EU and U.S. strategic priorities.

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