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Blindsided: Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev abruptly announced Tuesday his intent to close Manas Air Base, a critical supply hub and staging area for US and coalition forces operating in Afghanistan. His announcement, coming as the US prepares to dispatch thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reportedly was made after a Feb. 3 meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, the Los Angeles Times reported. In response, US defense officials said they hoped that the US would be able to keep using Manas, as the US government had received no official word of a change in status from the Kyrgyz government. But, if the closure goes through, they said the US would find other means to supply its forces. “While we value the relationship we have and the arrangements we have with Manas, the United States would certainly be able to continue operations in Afghanistan if we did not have that facility,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday. He added, “We are talking about the United States military, the most flexible, adaptable, capable, innovative military in the world.” (Includes AFPS report by Donna Miles) (For more, read Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog entry from yesterday and the transcript of Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell discussing Manas Feb. 3)