When an angry mob overthrew Kyrgyzstan’s autocratic president Kurmanbeck Bakiyev last April, one of the complaints heard most often on the streets of Bishkek, the country’s capital, was that the U.S. government had been complicit in propping up his regime. A former Soviet republic once known as the “Switzerland of Central Asia” because of its relatively strong civil society, Kyrgyzstan had suffered in recent years under Bakiyev from grinding poverty, widespread corruption, and government marred by cronyism and contempt for political opposition and independent media. And yet the United States remained a reliable supporter of the regime.
Though perhaps not the only reason Washington supported Bakiyev, certainly the biggest was the base that the U.S. military has maintained at Bishkek’s airport since 2001. It is critical to the war in Afghanistan; all U.S. troops journeying to the theater pass through the Transit Center at Manas, as the base is known. Rumors have long persisted that Bakiyev profited from the base through financial interests in Mina Corporation and Red Star Enterprises, the sister companies that supply jet fuel to Manas, and that officials in Washington might have known about these activities. After the president’s ouster, the controversy became so problematic, with the new Kyrgyz government repeatedly bringing it up in meetings with American officials, that the majority staff of the House National Security Subcommittee commissioned an investigation into the fuel companies’ contracts. But the final report, which came out just before the winter holidays, offered a surprising conclusion: There is “no credible evidence to support the allegation that President Bakiyev, his family, or affiliates were financially linked to Mina and Red Star.”
(Read the rest of this piece in The New Republic).