Washington: The US will use a Romanian airbase on the Black Sea as a transit point for its troops leaving Afghanistan as it winds up operations at another base in Kyrgyzstan, the Pentagon said on Saturday.
The agreement on using the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase was reached at a meeting at the Pentagon yesterday between US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Romanian counterpart Mircea Dusa.
This airbase will support logistics into and out of Afghanistan, including personnel and cargo movement, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
"Hagel praised this agreement, which is particularly important as the US prepares to wind down transit centre operations at Manas, Kyrgystan next year," Little said.
Hagel highlighted this agreement as further testament to Romania`s steadfast commitment to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and its commitment to regional and international security.
Earlier, the Pentagon announced that it has begun the process of relocating from the transit centre at Manas International Airport, and plans to complete the transfer of areas and facilities to the Kyrgyzstan government by July 2014.
"The current agreement between the US and Kyrgyz governments on hosting the TCM expires in July 2014. The US appreciates the support provided by the Kyrgyz people to its forces and coalition efforts to counter threat of terrorism and achieve security and stability in Afghanistan and the region," Little said in a separate statement.
"It respects the decision of the Government of Kyrgyzstan to end hosting the Transit Centre at Manas after more than 12 years," he said.
He said working closely with Kyrgyzstan over the next nine months, the US will manage the centre`s relocation effort while continuing to support the International Security Assistance Force mission.
"The US intends to continue supporting Kyrgyzstan`s democratic and economic development, and we look forward to further developing our bilateral relationship in the years ahead," Little said.
Hagel thanked Dusa for Romania`s decision to host the Aegis Ashore missile defence system, emphasising that the agreement reaffirms and strengthens the collective defence on which NATO was founded.
"This system represents an important component of the larger European Phased Adaptive Approach and is expected to be operational in 2015," Little said.
The Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, James N Miller, will attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Aegis Ashore system at Deveselu later this month, he said. Little also praised Romania`s decision to purchase 12 F-16 aircraft from Portugal.
Little yesterday announced he would leave his position in the Pentagon by the middle of November.