The United States is looking to strike a deal with Romania that would see American troops return home from Afghanistan via an air base on the Black Sea, AFP has reported.
With about 51,000 troops in land-locked Afghanistan as well as masses of equipment, the US is hoping to shift its troop flight withdrawal operations to Romania from Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan, where a lease expires in July 2014, US defense officials told the agency.
America wants to pull out the majority of its personnel, vehicles and weapons by the end of next year but is still negotiating a withdrawal agreement with the Afghanistan government in Kabul.
It is set to leave a smaller force of between 8,000 to 12,000 troops in the country, flying the rest out using Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in eastern Romania, if the two countries strike a deal.
Romania has previously agreed to host a site for US anti-missile interceptors as part of a NATO ballistic missile defense system.
AFP, quoted two anonymous Pentagon officials, who said the withdrawal operation was “phenomenally complicated”.
The officials said the tentative plan would be discussed Friday when Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel hosts Romania’s Defence Minister Corneliu Dobritoiu for talks.
Pentagon plans to rely mainly on land routes through Pakistan to move out most of the vehicles and gear.
Troops as well as weapons, ammunition and other sensitive items will be flown out by cargo plane.
Romania has previously agreed to host a US anti-missile system as part of a NATO ballistic missile defense system.
At the end of June 2013, Romania had around 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, and the number might drop to just around 200 next year.
Shaun Turton [email protected]