A 2008 event in which U.S. special operations soldiers trained their Kyrgyzstan counterparts was a "success" -- except for the part when the Americans were relieved of their money and their weapons by the Kyrgyz. That's the unlikely assessment given by a U.S. embassy official in a Wikileaked cable.The cable was written in January 2009 for General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. Central Command, ahead of his visit to the country.
Check out this extraordinary paragraph:
We assess Kyrgyz Special Forces to be among the best in the region and very receptive to SOF [special operations forces] engagement. In August 2008, we conducted training with the Alphas, the operational arm of the State Security Committee. While the training was a success, it was marred by the seizure by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, of the team's equipment, to include personal items, money and all the team's weapons kits. The Embassy has engaged the Kyrgyz Government up to the Presidential level to secure the release of the equipment but, to date, they have returned only a small portion of the weapons. The incident has also highlighted the need for increased coordination between the U.S. and Kyrgyz authorities to ensure smooth, successful future training engagements. Your visit can help move us closer to resolution of this issue.
Yes, the need for increased coordination: "Next time, let's coordinate so we're on the same page vis-a-vis you not taking our stuff." The whole thing is hard to fathom. Were the MIA people who seized the stuff the same as the ones who were being trained? How exactly did this go down? By force, or did the Kyrgyz sneak in to their barracks and steal their stuff? Was this some sort of elaborate hazing? "Seized" makes it sound like it was on a border crossing or the airport, but still -- their personal items and money? How did the conversations go at the presidential level? Given the high potential for embarrassment, plus the inherent secrecy of special operations, it's unlikely we'll ever find out. But I'll try.
Anyway, eight months later, there seemed to be no hard feelings when Petraeus visited again and met with the foreign minister and deputy defense minister:
General Petraeus told Sarbayev and Zhaparov that he wanted to expand the cooperation between SOCCENT and the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) "Alphas" unit, congratulating the government for the recent successful operation against terrorists in southern Kyrgyzstan.
There was no mention of the "seizure."
UPDATE: Reader Tim Jeanneret comments on EurasiaNet's facebook page: "This was in the local news at the time. If I remember right: MIA raided a house in Bishkek and found a bunch of US SF and Alpha, and a whole load of weapons and ammunition. It was a scandal for a day until they realised the Americans were there "legitimately" by invitation of Alpha. Of course MIA kept the Gucci kit."
I couldn't find any news stories from the time talking describing this, but it sounds plausible.