US transit hub in Romania fully operational
MK AIR BASE, Romania — A temporary U.S. base in Romania that will serve as the primary hub for American forces leaving Afghanistan officially reached its full operating capacity Friday.
Since Feb. 2, some 6,000 American servicemembers have transited through the center at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, located about 25 miles northwest of the Black Sea city of Constanta and about 2,500 miles northwest of Afghanistan
The center replaces the transit center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, which had processed hundreds of thousands of troops to and from the war beginning in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.
The Kyrgyz government last year declined to extend its lease on Manas, forcing the U.S. to find another location to stage its forces.
The cost of running the base for the 10 months between now and the withdrawal of all combat troops from Afghanistan is estimated at between $18 million to $20 million, he said.
If the U.S. had had to build the entire base from scratch, O’Connor said, the cost likely would have exceeded $100 million.
As a part of the agreement, the U.S. has agreed to give Romania permission to purchase 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons from Portugal. The U.S. will also provide F-16 training for Romanian pilots.
Romania has previously agreed to host an American-made anti-missile interceptor as part of the European missile defense system. That is expected to be operational by 2015.