I have a guest post over at the Stimson Center’s Budget Insight blog, discussing some of the bizarre issues surrounding the contractors hired by the Pentagon to supply fuel to the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan.
Manas has long represented a financial windfall for local contractors. In 2006, the FBI revealed that the family of Askar Akiev, who was President of Kyrgyzstan until a coup in 2005, maintained a vast criminal network extending to the administration, and in particular the fuel costs, at Manas. After the Akiev family was forced out of Bishkek by an angry mob, Kurmanbek Bakiyev took over rule of the country. Only, Bakiyev’s family was also involved in the overcharging of fuel at Manas—sometimes by as much as 100%. The corruption around this contract grew so severe it wound up playing a substantial role in this year’s latest revolution in the country.
Yet, the U.S. has very little idea of who owns the companies licensed to sell fuel at Manas. Regardless, the Obama administration extended the fuel contract earlier this year, essentially brushing aside concerns that it was fueling a corrupt enterprise. In any context, the fuel contract—worth $1 billion over the last six years—would be substantial. But in a place like Kyrgyzstan, channeling so much money into a single company was bound to create resentment and political conflict.
I should clarify that last sentence: just about anywhere on the planet would feel resentment if a small coterie of anonymous individuals made billions off a shady war contract. Anyway, comments and criticisms are always welcomed.