US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon to welcome Romania's Minister of National Defense Mircea Dusa to the Pentagon on Oct. 18. (Glenn Fawcett/US Defense Department)
WASHINGTON — Romania will allow the US military to use an air base near the Black Sea as a key logistics hub for getting supplies and troops in and out of Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said Friday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa finalize the agreement during an Oct. 18 meeting at the Pentagon.
“Secretary Hagel highlighted this agreement as a further testament to Romania's steadfast commitment to the [International and Security Assistance Force] mission [in Afghanistan] and its commitment to regional and international security,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement.
The agreement is important to DoD because it must leave its current transit hub at Manas, Kyrgystan, next year. In June, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted not to renew the US lease at Manas airbase beyond July 2014. The US military has already started the relocation process.
“Working closely with Kyrgyzstan over the next nine months, the US will manage the [Manas] relocation effort while continuing to support the International Security Assistance Force mission,” a DoD spokeswoman said in an email. “The U.S. intends to continue supporting Kyrgyzstan's democratic and economic development, and we look forward to further developing our bilateral relationship in the years ahead.”
While a timeline is not finalized, the US will now use Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, which is in Eastern Romania, approximately 15 miles from downtown Constanta, the country’s largest port and second largest city.
The airport has a 3,500 meter (11,482 foot) runway, which is key for hosting large military transport and tanker aircraft. A US European Command brochure describes conditions on the base as “austere.”