Kyrgyzstan: Bush-era Deal with a Central Asian Ruler May Come Back to Haunt Afghan Campaign

03/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A potential logistical setback for the efforts in Afghanistan can perhaps be traced back to a tangled Bush-era alliance that enriched the family of a dictator in Central Asia. The issue is the US air base in Kyrgyzstan. The Manas base, dubbed the Ganci base by the US, is like the Fedex hub through which the US military flies materil and people to Afghanistan from all around the world.

The mountain nation of Kyrgyzstan has threatened to shut the US base, although it is now softening its rhetoric.

The Kyrgyz decision to close the base has been blamed mainly on Russian influence, but at the heart of the disagreement is actually money, as the Kyrgyz government has repeatedly made clear. The impoverished Kyrgyz government, which took over after the toppling of President Askar Akaev in 2005, has been complaining since 2006 about the base deal.

When I was at NBC News in 2006, we reported on allegations that American military officials steered more than $100 million in sub-contracts to the Akaev family, while Akaev was in office.

The family had managed to control the country's fuel monopoly. That US windfall to the Akaev family businesses equaled about 5 percent of Kyrgyzstan's annual gross national product. Meanwhile, an FBI report we obtained alleged that Akaev's famly was at the center of an international web of crime. The report relayed suspicions that the Akaev family companies had "ties to transations with arms traffickers, Political Exposed Persons (PEPs), and a myriad of supicious US shell companies associated with the Akaev Organization."

When Akaev fell, his successors made it clear they wanted the US to compensate the impoverished country. And in 2006, the Americans announced the deal was resolved. There would be an aid package of $150 million.

What is unclear is how much of that $150 million has found its way to Kyrgyzstan's treasury. What is quite clear, though that the specific amount: $150 million, is quite significant. It is the precise amount of aid the Russians have now promised to Kyrgyzstan on top of a $2 billion loan.

Laura Rozen advanced all this in her column in Foreign Policy on Monday.