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  Pentagon's Fuel Deal Is Lesson in Risks of Graft-Prone Regions
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Last EditedRP  Nov 15, 2005 02:01pm
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News DateTuesday, November 15, 2005 07:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionSoon after the American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, the Pentagon opened an air base in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and made a deal to get jet fuel from the only two suppliers in the country. The companies just happened to be linked to relatives of the country's president.

Now the two businesses are under scrutiny by Kyrgyz prosecutors and F.B.I. agents who are looking into whether the president at the time, Askar Akayev, and his family pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars, partly from Pentagon fuel contracts, before he was ousted this year.

The family's involvement at the base, a critical site for refueling Air Force aircraft flying over Afghanistan, is a story of everyday cronyism in an impoverished country where the coming of the Americans was seen as a financial windfall for the well connected.

But the case also illustrates the risks of alliances with nations that are unstable and rife with corruption. Mr. Akayev's abrupt departure in March has put the Pentagon in an awkward bind. It needs continued access to the base, but the $207 million spent on fuel contracts has created resentment among the country's new leaders, some of whom contend that the United States knew where the proceeds were going.

The current president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, is insisting that the United States make retroactive lease payments of $80 million and help recover the contract money that he says should have gone to the Kyrgyz government - not to the Akayevs and their supporters.
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