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Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase

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Kyrgyzstan's provisional government faces a number of daunting tasks, the most immediate being to impose order in the capital. High on the political agenda is to reach agreement on the division of power resources with the southern clans, Bakiyev's former stronghold. Another with immense foreign implications is to legitimize its victory by creating transitional power structures that are recognized by the international community while preparing a new constitution and organizing new elections for six months' time while finding foreign assistance to ameliorate the country's dire fiscal situation.

On the issues of securing the capital and dividing power the global community can do little, but its impact on the last issues could be immense. Whoever provides the most significant assistance in resolving these problems can expect to see a commensurate growth in its influence. If current events are anything to go by, then Russia already has the inside track.

Washington should immediately recognize Otumbayeva's government. Secondly, it should use its considerable clout with international lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to assist Bishkek in getting easier access to international lending.

Third, despite the potential embarrassment, the Pentagon should come clean about its Manas contracts and negotiate a fair rent for Manas. This may be inevitable anyway, as Congress is preparing its own probe of the Manas contracts. On 13 April a House of Representatives panel conducting a preliminary investigation into U.S. contracting in Afghanistan began focus on what its chairman called the "unexplained relationships" between the families of two Kyrgyzstan presidents and fuel supplies to Manas. Washington should also use its influence to help the provisional government locate and repatriate as much of Bakiyev's stolen funds as possible, whatever the embarrassment to U.S. officials over the "deals" arranged with the Bakiyev regime.

The United States on 12 April welcomed as "very good news" statements from the Kyrgyz interim government that it will abide by existing agreements covering Manas. Two days later the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Robert Blake met with Otunbayeva in Bishkek, telling journalists that he came to "express support for the steps the provisional government has taken to restore democracy" and to offer American aid.

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