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100's People Killed in Kyrgyzstan Protests
In the light of events Smolensk, perhaps a rethink is in order.

If Washington's goal is, as would appear, the integration of Russia into America's European bloc (from the Atlantic to the Pacific etc), the deal over Kyrgyzstan would be Russian acquiescence in the establishment by the US of more bases in the country for proxy/ethnic warfare against China.

Just thinking aloud.
Cash Rules Everything Around Manas Transit Center

[Image: kyrgyz-prez.jpg]It ain’t easy being the son of a Central Asian autocrat. One day, you’re on top of the world: You’ve got a lucrative contract to supply fuel to the U.S. base. The next, your papa is out of power, and you’re stuck in Latvia.
Such appears to be the story of Maxim Bakiyev, the son of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the recently ousted president of Kyrgyzstan. The younger Bakiyev (second from right in the family portrait here) was the head of the country’s Central Agency for Development, Investments and Innovations, which was charged with handling millions in foreign aid and overseeing the privatization of state enterprises. And if that doesn’t sound like a lucrative important enough job, he was also said to be the sole supplier of fuel to the Transit Center at Manas, a key U.S. base that supports operations in Afghanistan.
Selling fuel to the U.S. military is probably the biggest game in town, economically speaking, and the subject of fuel concessions has a long and controversial history in the Central Asian republic. Back in 2005, the New York Times documented how two firms, Manas International Services and Aalam Services, were paid tens of millions of dollars to supply jet fuel to the U.S. military. One of those companies, it turns out, was part-owned by Aydar Akayev, the son of former president Askar Akayev. (Akayev’s son-in-law had a stake in the other company.) Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who replaced Akayev after the Tulip Revolution, made a big fuss about Washington making retroactive payments to help recover the fuel contract money that supposedly was siphoned off by Akayev’s family.
Now it’s the turn for members of Kyrgyzstan’s new government to complain that the Bakiyev family was pocketing all the cash from the Manas fuel concession. But as David Stern of GlobalPost judiciously notes, “no hard evidence has been provided” that the U.S. military was buying jet fuel from Bakiyev Junior.

Complicated enough? Well, whether or not cash rules everything around Maxim, lots of popular anger was directed at the man during last week’s popular revolt. The Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda has published photos from what it claims is Maxim Bakiyev’s house, which was apparently looted and burned by angry demonstrators. Among some of the tacky souvenirs found in the ruins: Solid gold playing cards.
And where is Maxim Bakiyev? Well, as luck would have it, he was on his way to the United States when his father fled the capital. In a curious twist, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the younger Bakiyev was on his way to Washington for bilateral consultations when the violence in Kyrgyzstan broke out. Russian media now report that the president’s son is now in Latvia. So whether or not he’s the man to talk to, the Pentagon is probably going to have to find a new company to keep the fuel flowing.

Tags: Afghanistan 3.0, Cash Rules Everything Around Me, Crazy Ivans, Politricks

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"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

Quote:According to Der Spiegel, after the 2005 change of government: Roza Otunbayeva "pledged allegiance to a small group of partners and sponsors of the Kyrgyz revolution, to 'our American friends' at Freedom House..."
Kyrgyzstan Destined To Become Another Narco-State?

19 04 2010 Kyrgyzstan Destined To Become Another Narco-State?

Sun, Apr 18, 2010
Central Asia, Editorial

On April 13 the prominent US research center STRATFOR published an analytical brief‘Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Insurgence’. The main idea was spinning around the recent bloody riots in Kyrgyz’s capital Bishkek culminated with 84 dead, more than 1500 injured and the expulsion of the former President Bakiev and his corrupt family members. The report clearly states that the Russian authorities are behind the scene of the upraising in that remote and pauper Central Asian republic, once a part of the Russian Empire. Despite such allegations are apparently making credit to the emerging new Russian abilities in their traditional area of influence, few facts still contradict to the assumption of the Russian involvement and ‘success’ there.
[Image: ferghana-valley-300x221.jpg]
First, Kyrgyzstan is indeed a country of unique geopolitical location. It encircles Fergana valley – a heavily populated oasis at the core of Central Asia, shared with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Besides the vital Russian interest to control Fergana as the first outpost defending vast and open deserts and steppes on the way to the Volga, all Chinese moves in Uyghur Autonomous Region can be easily monitored from Kyrgyz Tien Shan highlands as well. Perhaps that is the main reason why the USAF installed Manas military base few kilometers away from Bishkek soon after the start of NATO operations in Afghanistan in 2001. The base is still operating there in full fledge as the ‘US military transit centre’.

Another key point is that since then Kyrgyzstan became the most notable hub for distribution of the Afghan drugs to Eurasian ‘markets’, a business that had multiplied in times under the NATO guardianship in Afghanistan. The town of Osh, the ‘southern capital of Kyrgyzstan’, has long ago become a major cross-point for the Great Heroin Way through non-controllable mountainous Tajik-Kyrgyz border and transparent way to the north-west. Most likely the illicit profits proceeding from narco-trafficking were the main sources of spectacular enrichment of Bakiev’s clan during his presidency in 2005-2010. There were numerous evidences that the very arrival of Kurmanbek Bakiev to power in March 2005 as a result of ‘Tulip revolution’ was financed and supported by prosperous international narco-mafia. It is also notable that while in office Bakiev liquidated Kyrgyz Anti-Drug Agency.

As a matter of fact, Kyrgyzstan, once a ‘model Central Asian democracy’, as it used to be regarded in 1990s, and the first (!) post-Soviet state that joined WTO back in 1998, has ended up with two illegitimate coup d’etat in 5 years. It makes us believe that the events we witnessed in early April are only partly a result of mismanagement by the Kyrgyz ruling clan, their reckless appropriation of the state funds, international credits and national assets at the expense of their our people. We can assume that the tragedy in Kyrgyzstan reflects a wider diabolic strategy.

The theory of ‘manageable chaos’ as a perfect instrument for dominating the world ‘after tomorrow’ is thoroughly scrutinized by the leading Western minds and political practitioners. The old London’s and later Washington’s habit to impose ‘puppet’ dictators anywhere in the world has proved its ineffectiveness. Sooner or later the dictator starts playing his own game, as it was in case of Saddam Hussein. Much more promising are configurations with a sequence of weak and irresponsible ‘democratic’ governments holding office exclusively thanks to propaganda support from the media centers of global power. Such scheme allows maintaining ‘controllable conflicts’ in any zone, making up ideal environment for elusive ‘terrorist cells’ and drug cartels, targeting the strategic adversaries in the neighborhood.

Kyrgyzstan’s return to the Russian sphere of influence is irreversible. A country lacking any notable resource is living mostly on transfers from relatives who work in Russia (1 out of 5.5 million Kyrgyzs are doing unskilled jobs in the former metropolis). For some time the US rental payment for the base in Manas provided almost half of the national budget of the country. Oscar Akaev, the first president of Kyrgyzstan, once said: “Our mission is to survive until Russia gets richer”.

So now, when the time has come, the Washington’s task is to let Kyrgyz elect such ‘pro-Russian’ government, which would be unable to cope with the narco-cartels operating at theGreat Heroin Way and criminal-terrorist gangs of any nature. That would either prevent Kyrgyzstan from entering the new Customs Union being formed by Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus and effective since July 1, 2010 or make the policy of narcotization of Eurasia easier after customs procedures on its borders lifted once Kyrgyzstan accepted to the union. So at this time the geostrategic interests of the US and the international narco-mafia happily merged again. It was only logical for the US establishment to use the services of narco-barons to overthrow Bakiev, who demanded from the US more and more pay-offs for his loyalty and even dared engage with Chinese and Russians on multimillion investments in Kyrgyz economy.

Finally the last point of our analysis will be in finding a documentary proof that the ‘spontaneous’ riots in Talas and later in Bishkek on April 6-8 were lavishly sponsored and supplied by a ‘third party’. It did not take long. On April 7, 2010 the Daily Telegraph web-site published a photo report ‘Kyrgyzstan unrest in pictures: state of emergency declared in Bishkek after revolt’.

[Image: protester-rpg2.jpg]
A protester carries an RPG and a riot shield in Bishkek.Picture: REUTERS
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A Kyrgyz riot policeman’s vehicle burns near the government building in the capital Bishkek.Picture: AFP/GETTY.
You will not find Palestine-style stones and sticks in the hands of protesters. They carry RPGs and AKs, of the Russian origin, for sure. A small detail reveals the real source.
[Image: opposition-fighter-2.jpg]
A Kyrgyz opposition supporter fires an automatic weapon near the main government building during a protest against the government in Bishkek. Picture: AFP/GETTY
The HWS (holographic weapon sight) attached to the AK gun in the hands of an opposition fighter is the product of the US L-3 Communications EOTech Corporation, 500 series, retail price 600 USD each one (four average monthly salaries in Kyrgyzstan). According to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of the USA, the commercial sales and exports of this equipment requires a license issued by the US Department of State and Department of Commerce. These models were not officially delivered to Kyrgyzstan or Russia. Hence this AK with an advanced HWS could NOT be used by a regular Kyrgyz special unit officer and then captured by a protester at the ‘battlefield’. The Telegraph snapshot clearly indicates that the ‘pro-Russian revolt’ in Bishkek was surprisingly supplied from a US military site in Kyrgyzstan or, perhaps, Afghanistan.
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Kyrgyz riot policemen try to protect themselves during clashes with opposition supporters demonstrating against the government in Bishkek. Picture: AFP/GETTY.
So the only pending question is the following: who is the dominant ‘third party’ in April events in Kyrgyzstan? Whether international narco-mafia is subject to the orders from Washington or maybe in reality the American administration is just a docile servant to those who generously invest into the US political campaigns?
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"
Quote:A Kyrgyz opposition supporter fires an automatic weapon near the main government building during a protest against the government in Bishkek. Picture: AFP/GETTY
The HWS (holographic weapon sight) attached to the AK gun in the hands of an opposition fighter is the product of the US L-3 Communications EOTech Corporation, 500 series, retail price 600 USD each one (four average monthly salaries in Kyrgyzstan). According to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of the USA, the commercial sales and exports of this equipment requires a license issued by the US Department of State and Department of Commerce. These models were not officially delivered to Kyrgyzstan or Russia. Hence this AK with an advanced HWS could NOT be used by a regular Kyrgyz special unit officer and then captured by a protester at the ‘battlefield’. The Telegraph snapshot clearly indicates that the ‘pro-Russian revolt’ in Bishkek was surprisingly supplied from a US military site in Kyrgyzstan or, perhaps, Afghanistan.

And that ladies and gentlemen tells you all you need to know.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
David Guyatt Wrote:
Quote:A Kyrgyz opposition supporter fires an automatic weapon near the main government building during a protest against the government in Bishkek. Picture: AFP/GETTY
The HWS (holographic weapon sight) attached to the AK gun in the hands of an opposition fighter is the product of the US L-3 Communications EOTech Corporation, 500 series, retail price 600 USD each one (four average monthly salaries in Kyrgyzstan). According to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of the USA, the commercial sales and exports of this equipment requires a license issued by the US Department of State and Department of Commerce. These models were not officially delivered to Kyrgyzstan or Russia. Hence this AK with an advanced HWS could NOT be used by a regular Kyrgyz special unit officer and then captured by a protester at the ‘battlefield’. The Telegraph snapshot clearly indicates that the ‘pro-Russian revolt’ in Bishkek was surprisingly supplied from a US military site in Kyrgyzstan or, perhaps, Afghanistan.

And that ladies and gentlemen tells you all you need to know.


Dope Inc congratulating themselves on another phony revolution done and dusted. Confusedhakehands:
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
Friday, 23 April 2010

Kyrgyz instability may contaminate Central Asia

A Russian-Uzbek challenge to the US

M K Bhadrakumar
23 April 2010

Quote:Reports have appeared in the Russian media doubting the pedigree of the revolution in Kyrgyzstan. Moscow seems to be edging away from the interim administration head, Roza Otunbayeva, a former Kyrgyz ambassador to London and Washington.

The reports hint at covert United States backing for the uprising in Bishkek. They claim a drug mafia incited the latest regime change in Bishkek with covert US support - "the geostrategic interests of the US and the international narco-mafia happily merged ... It was only logical to use the services of narco-barons to overthrow [former president Kurmanbek] Bakiyev, who demanded from the US more and more payments for his loyalty".

A Russian commentator told Ekho Moscow radio, "The revolution in Kyrgyzstan was organized by the drug business." Kyrgyzstan is a hub of drug trafficking. The acreage of poppy cultivation in Kyrgyzstan has exponentially increased and is comparable today to Afghanistan.

There have been reports in the Russian (and Chinese) press linking the US base in Manas with drug barons. Iranian intelligence captured the Jundallah terrorist leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, when he was traveling in a Kyrgyz aircraft en route to an alleged rendezvous in Manas.

The Russian media leaks enjoy some degree of official blessing. They highlight circumstantial evidence questioning the nature of the revolt in Bishkek. Meanwhile, the influential think-tank Stratfor has rushed the interpretation alleging a Russian hand. Between these claims and counter-claims, Moscow seems to be veering to the assessment that Washington has benefited from Otunbayeva's political consolidation in Bishkek.

As a Russian commentator put it, "There are further indications that Moscow is cautious about the new Kyrgyz administration ... The truth is that there are no 100% pro-Russian politicians in Kyrgyzstan's interim government ... and quite a few of them are definitely associated with the West."

Indeed, Otunbayeva told the Washington Post and Newsweek that the US lease on the Manas air base would be extended "automatically" and that "we will continue with such long-term relations" with the US.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Robert Blake said in Bishkek after two days of consultations with Otunbayeva that her leadership offered "a unique and historic opportunity to create a democracy that could be a model for Central Asia and the wide region".

Blake hailed the regime change in Bishkek as a "democratic transition" and promised US aid to "find quick ways to improve the economic and social situation".

The sporadic attacks on ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan (estimated to number 700,000) have also set alarm bells ringing in Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the military to take necessary measures. A Kremlin spokesman said these would include increased security for "Russian interests" in Kyrgyzstan.

Moscow seems unsure whether the attacks on the Russians are isolated incidents. An overall slide toward anarchy is palpable with armed gangs taking the law into their hands and the clans in southern Kyrgyzstan rooting for Bakiyev's reinstatement. At any rate, Medvedev manifestly changed tack on Tuesday after talks with visiting Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. He clearly distanced Russia from identifying with Otunbayeva's interim government. Medvedev said:
Essentially, we need to revive the state, the state does not exist at this time, it has been deposed. We are hoping that the interim administration will make all the necessary measures to achieve that, as anarchy will have a negative effect on the interests of the Kyrgyz people and also their neighbors. Legitimization of the authorities is extremely important, which means there need to be elections, not a de facto fulfillment of powers. Only in this case can [Russia's] economic cooperation be developed.

Russia has extended humanitarian assistance to Kyrgyzstan, but full-fledged economic cooperation will be possible only after the proper institutions of power have been created. Uzbekistan's president shares this view.
The joint Russian-Uzbek stance challenged the interim government not to regard itself as a legally constituted administration, no matter Washington's robust backing for it.

Clearly, Moscow and Tashkent are pushing Otunbayeva to not make any major policy decisions (such as over the US Manas base). She should instead focus on ordering fresh elections that form a newly elected government.

Otunbayeva had indicated her preference for far-reaching constitutional reforms to be worked out first that would transform Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary democracy from the current presidential system of government. Moscow sees this as a ploy by the interim government to postpone elections and cling onto power with US backing.

Meanwhile, Bakiyev, who fled to Kazakhstan last weekend, has since shifted to Belarus. It is unclear whether Minsk acted on its own to give asylum to Bakiyev. Soon after reaching Minsk, Bakiyev announced that he hadn't yet resigned from office. "There is no power which will make me resign from the presidential post. Kyrgyzstan will not be anyone's colony," he said. Bakiyev called on world leaders not to recognize Otunbayeva's government.

Bakiyev's stance puts Washington in a bind. The US got along splendidly with Bakiyev and it is getting into stride equally splendidly with Otunbayeva. But it has no means of persuading Bakiyev to agree to a lawful, orderly transition of power to Otunbayeva.

Nor can Washington politically underwrite Otunbayeva's government if its legitimacy is doubted in the region (and within Kyrgyzstan itself). Besides, Otunbayeva is not acquitting herself well in stemming the country's slide toward clan struggle, fragmentation and anarchy.

During his two-day visit to Moscow, Karimov made it clear that Tashkent took a dim view of the regime change in Bishkek.

Using strong language, Karimov said, "There is a serious danger that what's happening in Kyrgyzstan will take on a permanent character. The illusion is created that it's easy to overthrow any lawfully elected government." He warned that instability in Kyrgyzstan may "infect" other Central Asian states.

Russia and Uzbekistan have found it expedient to join hands. Medvedev stressed that his talks with Karimov in Moscow were "trusting and engaging with regard to all aspects of our bilateral relations, international and regional affairs". Karimov reciprocated, "Uzbekistan sees Russia as a reliable, trusted partner, which shows that Russia plays a critical role in ensuring peace and stability throughout the world, but in Central Asia in particular."

"Our viewpoints coincided completely," Karimov asserted. He added, "What is going on today in Kyrgyzstan is in nobody's interests - and above all, it is not in the interests of countries bordering Kyrgyzstan."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also underscored the regional alignment. "Uzbekistan is the key country in Central Asia. We have special relations with Uzbekistan," he said.

Conceivably, Russia and Uzbekistan will now expect the Kyrgyz developments to be brought onto the agenda of the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is scheduled to take place in Tashkent in June.

A semi-official Russian commentary said, "The summit may help to work out mechanisms to ensure security in the country and in the whole region." The SCO secretary general (who is based in Beijing) visited Bishkek last week and met Otunbayeva.

Washington faces a potential diplomatic headache here. It needs to ensure the forthcoming SCO summit doesn't becomes a replay of the 2005 summit, which questioned the raison d'etre of the American military presence in Central Asia.

If Washington forces the pace of the great game, a backlash may ensue, which could snowball into calls for the eviction of the US from the Manas base, as some influential sections of Kyrgyz opinion are already demanding.

If that were to happen, the big question would be whether Otunbayeva would be able to get the American chestnuts out of the fire. Hailing from the southern city of Osh but having lived her adult life in the capital, which is dominated by northern clans, she lacks a social or political base and is at a disadvantage.

The geopolitical reality is that Kyrgyzstan has to harmonize with the interests of the regional powers - Russia and Uzbekistan in particular - as should the US, in the larger interests of regional stability. The fact remains that Russian and Uzbek (and Kazakh) influence within Kyrgyz society and politics remains preponderant. And China too has legitimate interests.

The Kremlin will not fall into the same bear trap twice. In Georgia under somewhat similar circumstances the US took generous help from Russia in the stormy winter of 2003 to clear the debris of the "Rose" revolution and "stabilize" the ground situation before promptly installing Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been a thorn in the flesh for Moscow ever since.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
Here is a Foreign Office/SIS briefing, as regurgitated by Simon Tisdall, The Guardian’s regurgitator-in-chief of FO/MI6 briefings. I particularly like the opening – “It’s beyond argument…” – which means, I suppose, that no UK journalist with ambition should be so stupidly careless with their careers as to suggest anything to the contrary:

Quote:Russia may regret Kyrgyzstan coup

The Kremlin is not known for its support of pro-democracy movements, and it may have bitten off more than it can chew

It's beyond argument, two weeks after the overthrow of Kyrgyzstan's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, that Russia played a critical, possibly decisive role in his downfall. But as ethnic violence, score-settling, and political confusion continue to roil the impoverished central Asian country, the coming question is whether a clever-boots Kremlin has bitten off more than it can chew.

Having tendered his handwritten resignation by fax to the interim government last week, Bakiyev insisted today, from the relative safety of Minsk, that he was still in charge. "I will do everything to restore constitutional order … only death can stop me," he said dramatically. "I call on international leaders not to recognise the authority of this illegitimate gang."

Bakiyev's southern supporters, centred on Dzhalal-Abad in the Ferghana valley (where most residents are ethnic Uzbeks) are also stubbornly refusing to recognise the administration formed by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva. Meanwhile fighting broke out around the capital, Bishkek, this week involving minority ethnic Russians and Meskhetian Turks.

Otunbayeva says she wants to create a parliamentary republic and hold free, democratic elections. That would be a welcome change. The Bakiyev era was blighted by repression, human rights abuses and corruption, with the exiled president accused of embezzling $200m. But it is uncertain whether she has the clout to hold the country together.

Cohesion is not the only imponderable. The fact that Russia recognised the interim government within hours of the coup taking place, while the US and the EU have yet to do so, shows how the Kyrgyzstan upheaval is also turning conventional political calculation on its head.

Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is not known for its support for pro-democracy movements in the former Soviet "near abroad", either in central Asia or the Caucasus. It has worked hard to reverse such tendencies – notably in Ukraine, which recently elected a pro-Moscow president and has now agreed to continue to host Russia's Black Sea fleet. Paradoxically, in Kyrgyzstan, it finds itself as foremost sponsor of a popular, anti-authoritarian revolution.

Washington, on the other hand, has in theory promoted a "freedom agenda" in these same regions and the Middle East. Barack Obama is now under fire at home for placing strategic and security considerations ahead of Kyrgyz democratic self-determination, although George Bush did much the same.

"US policy toward Kyrgyzstan has focused almost exclusively on keeping open its military base at Manas [a key supply hub for Afghanistan]," wrote David Kramer in Foreign Policy. "Many who are now serving in the interim government still feel betrayed by the US for giving Bakiyev a free pass as long as Manas stayed open."

According to analyst Tom Malinowski, Washington's duplicitous, self-interested approach is evident elsewhere in the region as it battles Russia and China for geopolitical advantage.

"US policymakers increasingly view central Asia as a transit point to somewhere else. It is a region through which oil and natural gas flow to Europe, reducing US allies' dependence on Russia. It is a region through which fuel, food and spare parts flow to US and Nato forces in Afghanistan," Malinowski said. Officials had coined a new name for the region, he added: the "northern distribution network".

The way Russia encouraged and manipulated the political opposition to Bakiyev also confounds stereotypical behaviour. Bakiyev's authoritarianism did not worry the Kremlin but his perceived double-crossing of Russia did, so they used American-style "soft power" tools to undermine him.

In the months before the uprising, financial assistance was withdrawn, Russian-language television and website outlets highlighted Bakiyev's alleged crimes, energy prices were forced up by tariff increases (as in Ukraine and Belarus), trade and banking regulations were tightened, and opposition figures were courted in Moscow. By the time the coup began, Bakiyev was already destabilised. This was an almost exact copy of US tactics preceding the Georgia and Ukraine "colour revolutions".

Now Russia is rightly worried about what it has wrought. President Dmitri Medvedev warned recently of anarchy and a "second Afghanistan". This week the Russian military was told to be ready to protect ethnic Russians – 20% of Kyrgyzstan's population.

It probably won't come to direct intervention. But the downside for the Kremlin of its too-clever Kyrgyz coup is becoming clearer. A democratic Kyrgyzstan may prove less biddable than Moscow would wish. The level-headed Otunbayeva may yet refuse to evict the Americans from Manas. Political divisions may become lethally corrosive. And, most dangerous of all, ethnic violence combining with popular discontent and Islamist agitation in the Ferghana valley linking south Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, may spark a wider conflagration.

It's happened before and it could happen again. Such are the perils of externally incited regime change.
The Shady Underside of U.S. Military Ops In the Afghan Region

The effort to keep fuel flowing for the American military has led to questionable alliances in Kyrgyzstan and allegations of corruption entangling the U.S. government.
April 22, 2010 |

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In Napoleon Bonaparte's day an army may have marched on its belly, as the French emperor famously quipped, but the modern-day American military campaign in Afghanistan needs not just food but also fuel. Diesel for the MRAPs and Humvees, aviation fuel for the planes and helicopters--that's the fodder for the military surge under way in Afghanistan. Fuel is precious there--they call it liquid gold--and the effort to keep it flowing has created an array of bizarre monopolies, strange alliances and allegations of corruption entangling the US government.

This is the story of two interlinked and secretive offshore companies run by a former Army intelligence officer. The firms run a specialized monopoly of massive proportions. Their niche: supplying aviation fuel for US military operations in Afghanistan--enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools each and every day of the year.

The companies' names are Red Star Enterprises and Mina Corp. In Afghanistan, Red Star Enterprises has a sole source contract worth more than $1 billion, won without competition, to deliver fuel to Bagram Air Base, that central hub of the war effort. The Nation has obtained an unusual "memorandum of agreement" between Red Star and the US military authorities, giving the firm exclusive ownership of a fuel pipeline that feeds directly into the base.

Similarly, in nearby Kyrgyzstan, a staging ground for the Afghan war, Mina has another sole source contract, awarded without any announcement, to provide fuel to a huge and controversial base. The contract has been at the center of corruption and kickback allegations, and the companies have been accused of enriching the families of two successive heads of state, both of whom presided over kleptocratic and repressive regimes--an arrangement that fostered great resentment in the country. Violence exploded on the streets in early April, leaving eighty protesters dead, and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was forced to flee. The new, provisional government sees Red Star and Mina in a very specific light. The chief of staff, Edil Baisalov, tells The Nation that the firms have served as "an indirect way for the Pentagon to bribe the ruling families of Kyrgyzstan." (These allegations are the subject of a Congressional hearing tomorrow, convened by the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.)

Baisalov's charge is a serious one but not new, nor as outlandish as it may seem, although the companies deny it. The eight-year saga of high-stakes contracts and secretive deals raises serious questions about how the Afghan campaign has been run, not only by the Bush administration but also under President Barack Obama. Sole source contracts have continued under the current administration, and if the Kyrgyz authorities are correct, the Pentagon contractors are still doing what they did under Bush. After all, the thirst for oil and fuel can only grow as President Obama's Afghan surge ramps up.

The man in charge of Red Star's and Mina's operations is a good-natured retired Army lieutenant colonel named Chuck Squires, now 56 years old. A lanky and broad-shouldered fellow with a good sense of humor, he has a graduate degree in Russian studies from Harvard. Before 9/11, he was the defense attaché at the US Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Back then, when he was still in the military, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan was just another impoverished and mountainous ex-Soviet republic, with a per capita income a little higher than that of Cambodia. It was just one pawn in the Great Game between Russia and the United States, and it was not easily accessible, bordered by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan on the south, west and north, respectively, and by China on the east. Nor was it strategically important, although its huge inland lake did serve as a testing site for advanced Russian torpedoes.

Squires, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article, had left Bishkek by September 11, 2001. One source says he was gone from the military by then too, but his experience there would serve him well in the private sector in the future.

That is because shortly after 9/11, Kyrgyzstan agreed to host a US air base. At the time, Kyrgyzstan's president was Askar Akayev, who presented himself as an innovative reformer and economist. The United States did not pay much for the base rights, although this was a source of controversy within the country and a matter of concern for the State Department. At the time, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon was holding sway over Colin Powell's State Department. The Defense Department insisted it was in charge of all negotiations, and the State Department's input wasn't wanted. "You stay out of it" is how a former State Department official remembers the Pentagon's tone.

The Manas base, dubbed the Ganci base, after a firefighter killed on 9/11, was like the FedEx hub through which the US military flies material and people to Afghanistan from around the world. The base hosts tankers and other planes, and operates as a transfer facility for troops.

Red Star Enterprises and Mina Corp. soon appeared on the scene like mysterious strangers. They had a rather ethereal, offshore quality and some intriguing connections. For example, Red Star had the same London address and phone number as Iraq Today, a purportedly independent and short-lived newspaper launched in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. The paper had been set up by a former journalist who worked with Mina Corp.--which, of course, was connected to Red Star.

Over the years neither Red Star nor Mina seems to have even bothered to put up a website. They both have offices in London, but they are both incorporated on the island of Gibraltar, a British territory off Spain with impenetrable secrecy laws for corporations. Various private investigators have been unable to determine who really owns them.

Though Red Star had no apparent track record, it was hired by the Pentagon to supply the base's massive fuel needs. Red Star's director of operations: the now retired Lieutenant Colonel Squires. Squires returned to Bishkek as a civilian, coordinating Red Star's contract work. The Pentagon's Defense Energy Support Center hired Red Star to supply its fuel. It was a huge contract, totaling $240 million over three years.

Even if the Kyrgyz government wasn't getting paid much for the base, the Akayev family was reaping tens of millions. It was heavily involved in business at the airport, running the two companies that operated as Red Star's subcontractors. One of them was run by Akayev's son, and the other by his son-in-law, and from 2002 to 2005 Red Star, operating on its US government contract, paid the firms about $120 million.

It may have just been business, but the way Kyrgyz investigators later saw it, Red Star, the prime contractor, was the cut out for funneling funds to the Akayev family.

It was all cozy until violence hit the streets of Bishkek in 2005, foreshadowing what was to come five years later. The "Tulip Revolution" forced Akayev to flee and abdicate, and then the secrets of the Akayev regime began to tumble out, in scandal after scandal. The new government, headed by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, even asked the US government for help investigating the former regime. The FBI's Eurasian Unit churned out an extraordinary report that laid bare a "vast amount of potential criminal activities associated with the Akaev Organization." The president and his family were accused of "siphoning off at least $1 billion from the Kyrgyz state budget." It was as if the Kyrgyz government had been some kind of criminal enterprise within which the United States ran a military base.

After the revolt, people thought things might be different. The new government seemed to bring a fresh sense of integrity for a short while, before it began to stack its own skeletons in the closet. Despite his claims to be a reformer, Bakiyev appeared to go about replicating the patterns of his predecessor in a deliberate manner. "He really didn't think twice. They inherited this," says one consultant who dealt with Bakiyev shortly after the revolution. "We really in great detail uncovered the scheme. And I think the moment they figured out how it worked, they went and did it."

Peter Zalmayev of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative puts it this way: "Bakiyev came in under the premise he would clean [the government] up and make it more transparent. But he replaced the structure they had with Akayev and his son with his own family." Word quickly spread that Bakiyev's youngest son, Maksim, was in business too. The insiders said he was taking over "Manas International"--through frontmen.

Meanwhile, Bakiyev's associates were making powerful US connections. For example, one of his allies set up a bank called AsiaUniversalBank (AUB) in Bishkek. On its board were two august former US senators: former US Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, currently associated with the lobbying firm Alston & Bird, and J. Bennett Johnston, the longtime Louisiana senator, who has his own firm. Dole was paid several hundred thousand dollars for his role, which included one trip to Bishkek and a few board meetings in Washington.

Meanwhile, what mattered to the United States was the base at Manas. There, the airfield was still lined with squadrons of KC-135 Stratotankers, which needed constant filling for their missions over the skies of Afghanistan.

Red Star kept up its work, supplying fuel.

But Red Star was also busy elsewhere at the same time. Chuck Squires and Red Star were now focused not just on Kyrgyzstan but directly on Afghanistan. To do business with the US military in Afghanistan usually means operating at Bagram Air Base, the sprawling compound--a virtual military city--about an hour north of Kabul.

Col. Jonathan Ives was then the base commander at Bagram. Red Star, he says, was synonymous with aviation fuel, trucking it down from Uzbekistan along an old and treacherous route through the mountains from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul, passing at one point through the Salang Pass, a 1.5-mile tunnel through a mountain. Ives says Red Star trucked in more than 250,000 gallons of the precious stuff each day--a staggering amount. Each tanker truck can carry a maximum of 9,000 gallons, so Red Star would have had convoys of about thirty tractor-trailers per day.

In October 2007 Red Star scored a remarkable coup. Squires signed a deal with Ives that allowed Red Star to build and own a pipeline that ran from the base for all that fuel. Ives says that Red Star had purchased land near Bagram Air Base. "It was farmland, so they purchased the land and the rights." In the memorandum of agreement between Red Star and the military, obtained by The Nation, Red Star promises it "will install, at no cost to the United States Government (USG), a petroleum pipeline for transfer of TS-1 jet fuel." Significantly, the agreement says, "Red Star will retain ownership of the pipeline."

It is intriguing that the firm signed such a document rather than an ordinary contract. "It is very unusual--very unusual," said professor Charles Tiefer, an expert on contract law at the University of Baltimore School of Law who sits on the US government's eight-member Commission on Wartime Contracting. I asked him who would regulate such an agreement. "Nobody," he answered. "There is no regulation of it because it's not supposed to happen, because it is trying to create a loophole where there is none in the Competition in Contracting Act."

Whatever the legal basis for the contract, not only the fuel pipeline but the land underneath it was owned by Red Star. Indeed, trucks would be able to gain access to the pipeline only through Red Star property. Red Star, in other words, controlled all access to the pipeline that would bring fuel to the thirsty US air base. It was as if the company offered to build a door to a US base and then controlled anything that went through the door. "I think it is pretty clever, if you want to say that," says Ives. "It is shrewd business," he added, a bit ruefully. He says he thought the pipeline was a good idea because it limited fuel trucks' access to the base and made things safe. He didn't realize, he says, that the pipeline Red Star built would give it a monopoly.

But that's what it did. Within four months of that memorandum of agreement, the United States announced it planned to offer a sole source contract to Red Star for 194 million gallons of fuel over two years. There were some complaints by a potential competitor, but it had no access to the pipeline. That summer, in August 2008, Red Star was awarded the contract for $720 million. It had locked in the monopoly.

On March 4, 2009, barely six weeks in office, Barack Obama pledged to crack down on government procurement waste and fraud, and "to dramatically reform the way we do business on contracts across the entire government." Standing next to Senator John McCain, his adversary in the election but an advocate of contract reform as well, he said, "We need more competition for contracts and more oversight as they are carried out." That day he sent out a memo asking all federal agencies to work on a way to end sole source contracts.

But when it came to Red Star and Mina, things stayed very much the same. On July 29, about five months after the president's speech, the Defense Department did not bother issuing a solicitation or requesting bids for the fuel contract. Instead, it quietly issued a new, $243 million contract to Mina to keep selling fuel to the base at Manas. The government used an unusual clause in the federal rules to justify this: the "national security" exemption. Under that provision, "Full and open competition need not be provided for when the disclosure of the agency's needs would compromise the national security."

"It went from competitive to sole source," says lawyer Ronald Uscher, who represents a competitor to Red Star and Mina called IOTC. In 2007 Mina had actually won the contract through a process that ostensibly included competitive bidding--though it beat out IOTC, whose bid had been almost 3 percent lower. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Uscher tried to obtain information about Mina's bid, but the Defense Department refused to tell him how Mina and Red Star gauged their price changes. Normally these are based on worldwide fuel prices, but not in Kyrgyzstan. Here it would be kept a secret. "There is nothing secretive about the price of jet fuel in 99.9 percent of the world," says Uscher, "except at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, apparently!" Then, in 2009, Uscher complains, "You have a sole source secret contract to supply fuel to Manas awarded to Mina with no other competitors having oversight and no citizens having oversight."

Why the secrecy? And what was the national security requirement that dictated avoiding competition? Did Mina's source for fuel have anything to do with it?

Officials in Kyrgyzstan's provisional government say it straight out: Mina Corp., the affiliate of Red Star, was paying funds to Maksim Bakiyev, the president's son. The new government's chief of staff Baisalov says that in order to keep the air base secure and supplied with fuel, the United States essentially "bribed the Kyrgyz ruling family. First it was Akayev and then it was Bakiyev. On one hand, the White House and the US State Department, they announce these noble goals, democracy, good government, and on the other hand, the military comes in and overrides everyone else." The Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the Defense Energy Support Center, wouldn't comment specifically on that, even to deny it. "We can't speak to that," said DLA spokesman Dennis Gauci. "You'll have to speak to Mina Corp."

A representative of Mina, who asked not to be named, denied any wrongdoing. "There was no consideration given to the ownership interests of any supplier." If Maksim Bakiyev did have any ownership interest, he said, Mina didn't know about it. The company, he told me, was reaching out to the interim Kyrgyz government to try to explain it to them. (Mina emphasizes it does vital work "by providing mission-critical fuel supplies to the troops and civilians that are carrying out the mission in Afghanistan.")

With the collapse of the Bakiyev regime, a whole web of money and power has been exposed. That bank, AUB, on whose board sat ex-Senators Dole and Johnston? Its accounts have been frozen, and the new government says it was laundering money.

The provisional government in Kyrgyzstan says it will leave the base open for now. And the United States, with the Afghan surge under way, needs that base now more than ever. But the Kyrgyz government is making a new demand: it is launching a criminal investigation of the Bakiyev regime and its profits--and it wants the US government to help.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Magda Hassan Wrote:The FBI's Eurasian Unit...

To be included for sure in the select group of phrases I never imagined I'd see...

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