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Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase

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Other simmering complaints included a 26 September 2006 aircraft collision involving a KC-135 and the presidential Tu-154 airliner, for which the Americans declined to take responsibility, and the repeated USAF practice of dumping of tons of surplus fuel over Kyrgyz farms adjoining the base. Claims by nearby farmers for compensation were denied.

Things came to a head on 6 December 2006, when 20-year old US soldier Zachary Hatfield shot twice and killed 42-year-old Kyrgyz Aleksandr Ivanov, an ethnic Russian Kyrgyz, at the airbase's entry gate. Ivanov worked for Aerocraft Petrol Management, which provides fuel services for Kyrgyz and international civilian aircraft. Hatfield maintained that he fired in self defense after Ivanov approached him with a knife. Despite promises to make Hatfield available to the Kyrgyz judicial system, the Pentagon whisked him out of the country.

2009 BAKIYEV PLAYS BOTH MOSCOW AND WASHINGTON FOR SUCKERS

The year 2009 began with the Bakiyev regime cozying up to Moscow, receiving in early February $2.15 in loan guarantees, the bulk of which would be used to finish the Kambarata-1 hydroelectric cascade. Bishkek's rumor mill buzzed with gossip that part of the price of the loan was that the Bakiyev administration would shutter Manas.

The Pentagon was certainly alarmed, despite a calm exterior. In January 2009, as negotiations were taking place in Moscow, during a trip through Central Asia, Head of U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus said in relation to Manas that "$63 million of funds (we) are giving (is) for leasing the airport, paying contracts and salaries to the local personnel." However, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev corrected the general's spin for the local audience, telling journalists, said that "Kyrgyzstan gets $150 million from the USA every year, but most of these funds are not for deploying the Manas air base," stressed that this was the "total sum" of U.S. payments and that in fact the air base rental totaled only $17.5 million per year

On 3 February 2009 Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced in Moscow that "the Kyrgyz government has taken a decision to terminate the rent of the base," signing a bill into law to that effect on 20 February.

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