The upheaval gripping Kyrgyzstan is disrupting the flow of troops and materials bound for Afghanistan. A Defense Department announcement stated that the American-operated Manas Transit Center, located outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, will remain closed to US military and contractor air traffic from April 8-12.
The Notice to Airmen Service distributed by the Pentagon stated: "Transit Center at Manas closed to inbound Coalition and contract aircraft." Despite the apparent closure, the Manas facility is still operational, asserted Maj. Rickardo Bodden, a spokesman for the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. "The Transit Center at Manas has taken appropriate measures to continue to support operations in Afghanistan," Bodden said. He did not provide specifics.
The Transit Center plays a vital role in the US surge in Afghanistan, as more than 35,000 troops use the facility per month. Refueling aircraft based at Manas provide fuel for US aircraft flying missions over Afghanistan. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The base's presence on Kyrgyz territory has proven deeply controversial. There is a widespread public perception that the US military has enabled government corruption via the awarding of a lucrative refueling contract, along with other supply contracts connected with base operations. Discontent over government corruption was a contributing factor in the popular protests that sparked the April 6-7 political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Roza Otunbayeva, the head of Kyrgyzstan's interim government said at news conference on April 8, that all deals concerning the Manas base's operations would be subject to review.
"So far, the status quo at the base remains. We don't want to solve this problem using cavalier methods. But we still have questions, especially about fuel," she said.
"Give us some time and we will solve this issue," she added.
A little known company called Mina Corp. currently holds the jet fuel contract for Manas. According to documents obtained by EurasiaNet under the Freedom of Information Act, Mina Corp. was awarded a contract to supply an estimated 105 million gallons of jet fuel to Manas in July 2009 at a cost of $2.28 per gallon.
The contract ends on July 31, 2010, but contains a further two-year delivery option.
Mina Corp, a Gibraltar-registered company, is closely related to Red Star Enterprises Ltd.
A spokesman for Red Star/Mina Corp., Nikolai Ushakov, told EurasiaNet, "Red Star Enterprises and Mina Corp. share some management and logistics aspects in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, although they are separately registered entities with different profiles."
On April 7, Ushakov categorically denied a link between Red Star/Mina Corp. and any member of the family of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the Kyrgyz leader who fled Bishkek on April 7 amid mob violence. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].