US diplomatic cables recently released by Wikileaks pull the curtain back on the open secret that is US-Turkmen strategic cooperation.
The United States has been using Turkmenistan since 2002 as a logistical oasis, as part of the war effort in Afghanistan. A self-proclaimed neutral nation, Turkmenistan has gone to great lengths to keep its security cooperation with the United States off the radar, the leaked diplomatic cables show. For its part, American diplomats have stretched the letter and intent of US regulations governing overflights in order to humor Ashgabat’s hunger for secrecy and cash, the cables indicate.
According to the cables, Ashgabat and Washington signed their initial blanket overlflight agreement in 2003. The pact, which is renewable on an annual basis, allows for up to 1,600 US military overflights per year. The agreement “is considered vital to maintaining an effective western air bridge to US forces in Afghanistan,” according to a cable dated November 27, 2007.
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Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based reporter specializing in Central Asian affairs.