To keep U.S. warplanes flying over Afghanistan, the Pentagon allowed a "secrecy obsessed" business group to supply jet fuel to a U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan, turning a blind eye to an elaborate fraud involving fuel deliveries from Russia, according to congressional investigators.
In a report due to be released Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs hammers the Pentagon and also State Department diplomats for ignoring red flags raised by jet fuel contracts worth nearly $2 billion for the Manas Transit Center, a U.S. base used for in-flight refueling over Afghanistan.
The U.S. military's long but mostly hidden dependence on Russian fuel is a sensitive issue. The congressional report, which details the use of false end-user certification to evade Russian export restrictions, comes as Moscow and authorities in Kyrgyzstan are pushing to wrest control of the lucrative jet fuel supply business from a Gibraltar-registered business group comprising Mina Corp. and Red Star Enterprises.
Subcommittee chairman John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) warned that the United States "should be very cautious about the potential for overreliance on Russian fuel supplies supporting the mission in Afghanistan." He added that the previous use of deception to obtain Russian fuel raised concerns. "The fact that the Department of Defense and Department of State ignored or were unaware of the false certifications is astonishing."