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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gateway To Afghanistan

Jet fuel supplier stirs Kyrgyz protest

Jet fuel, essentially the lifeblood of Manas Transit Center, has become a worsening diplomatic problem for the United States.

Kyrgyz government leaders want the Pentagon to scrap its new, $630 million supply contract with Mina Corp., which many believe has ties to ousted Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and is the subject of a corruption investigation by authorities in Bishkek. A U.S. congressional panel investigating ownership of the company has found no connections to Bakiyev.

The (London) Telegraph published a good wrapup of the standoff in today's editions, an electonic copy of which can be found here. And late last month, The Washington Post published a lengthy examination of Mina Corp.'s secretive ownership, which includes a retired U.S. intelligence officer from California who owned a hamburger joint in Bishkek before becoming a billionaire fuel supplier. An electronic version of The Washington Post article can be found here.

The new supply contract was announced last week. Terms include a one-year, $315 million agreement for delivery of 96 million gallons of fuel, with an optional one-year extension. The agreement also allows for the use of subcontractors.

Kyrgyzstan's state-run oil company, in conjunction with a Russian fuel supplier, was among the nine bidders for the contract. Mina Corp. and its sister company, Red Star, have held the fuel delivery contract at Manas since 2003. The U.S. State Department hasn't commented on Kyrgyz demands to withdraw the supply contract with Mina.

Fairchild Air Force Base supplies 80 percent of the military aircraft and flight crews operating out of Manas Transit Center, a key hub along one of the primary NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. The small base, located outside the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, is barely 400 miles from the Afghan border.