Logistics: Afghan Aerial Tankers Evicted


June 3, 2010: Due to problems negotiating a new contract to supply jet fuel, the United States has temporally halted aerial refueling aircraft from operating out of Manas air base in Kyrghyzstan. These tankers will now operate from other bases in the region, a move that will be more expensive. Manas is mainly a base for U.S. Air Force tankers (that refuel about 30 aircraft a day over Afghanistan) and a staging area for supplies that are brought through Russia by railroad, then flown into Afghanistan from Manas. For the aerial tankers, their fuel and other supplies also come in via rail. While flying through Russia is cheaper than coming in through Pakistan (via the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean), railroad is more than ten times cheaper than any air route.

Most of the through flights via Russia are carrying military personnel (50,000 or more a month), and these were suspended for over a week last month because of the current revolution in Kyrghyzstan. But the aerial tanker flights, which account for most of the activity at Manas, continued. But then the new Kyrghyzstan government discovered that the family of the recently deposed president Bakiyev were making a lot of money from sales of jet fuel to the Americans at Manas. Sales of jet fuel to American forces in the Manas air base were controlled by members of the Bakiyev family, who got about $100 million a year from bribes on that alone. The new Kyrghyzstan government claims that American officials were involved in arranging the cut of fuel sales for Bakiyev. The government Kyrghyzstan refuses to produce any proof until their investigation is complete. Until then, there's no fuel for the American KC-135 tankers.





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