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Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase

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Manas quickly proved to be a useful, if more distant and expensive, alternate base for Afghan operations. Despite being its 400 miles and 90-minutes flying time to Afghanistan, Manas dwarfed the six to eight hours flight time from other potential launching areas, such as ships or U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Washington's arrogance and befuddled response to events in Andjian reverberated throughout the region. Even before Uzbekistan abrogated its SOFA agreement with Washington, at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on 5 July 2005 the presidents of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed a joint declaration requesting the U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition forces to set a date for leaving Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, then Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Roza Otunbayeva held a news conference to rehash the SCO declaration's arguments for setting a deadline on the U.S.-led military presence. According to a 6 July 2005 Itar-Tass report, she reiterated the contention that Afghanistan had essentially been stabilized and that consequently active military operations were no longer necessary, implying that Manas had lost its reason for being. Citing the 2001 U.S.-Kyrgyzstan SOFA agreement, Otunbayeva stated, "We intend to act in line with this and discuss the matter. We want to know how long the base is going to stay."

ALL IN THE FAMILY, COURTESY OF THE PENTAGON

The corruption involved in the Manas lease arrangement which helped precipitate last week's events had a long genesis, as beginning in early 2002 Akayev's son Aydar was the recipient of annual $2 million lease payments, plus additional fees of $7,000 per takeoff and landing. In all, Akayev's family law received $87 million and $32 million for his two airport service companies during Akayev's tenure as president as shortly after Manas began operations, the Pentagon signed contracts with Manas International Services Ltd. and Aalam Services Ltd., the only two aviation fuel suppliers in Kyrgyzstan, both controlled by Akayev's relatives. Compalints over American arrogance over the facility would outlast the Akayev regime.

THE LIST OF COMPLAINTS GROWS

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