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Monday, August 27, 2012

After Afghanistan War, a New Great Game Kicks Off in Central Asia'

Since 9/11, America’s priority in Central Asia has been to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. But as the United States and NATO pull out, there is a new danger: that the West could become entangled in regional rivalries, local strongman politics and competition with Russia and China.

Central Asian governments have sought for years to manipulate foreign powers’ interest in the region for their own benefit. In the summer of 2005, the United States military was evicted from its facility at Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan after American officials criticized the Uzbek government’s slaughter of hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in Andijon; Russia and China, which have both been expanding their footprints in the region, publicly backed the crackdown. In 2009 Kyrgyzstan’s kleptocratic president, Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, drummed up a bidding war between Washington and Moscow over the fate of the Manas air base, the main staging facility for American troops in Afghanistan.

Following Mr. Bakiyev’s ouster in an April 2010 revolt, Kyrgyz officials claimed that many of these payments had been laundered through a complex network of offshore bank accounts controlled by the former first family. As America begins withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Central Asian states are likely to increase their demands for tacit payoffs for cooperation. Currently, the United States pays the Kyrgyz government $60 million a year to lease Manas and funnels hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel contracts to local suppliers and intermediaries. Read More