Washington Babylon — March 25, 2010, 9:57 am

Is Pentagon in Bed with “Queen of the Uzbeks”?

Should the Pentagon be cutting deals with a company apparently controlled by the powerful daughter of Uzbekistan’s dissident-boiling dictator, Islam Karimov? As previously noted here, Gulnara Karimova has amassed a striking degree of wealth and international fame, with friends who include Bill Clinton and Sting.

Gulnara is widely believed to control Zeromax, which reports annual sales of over $1 billion and is involved in transportation, oil and gas, mining, agriculture and private investment. Last year, Foreign Policy quoted a Central Asian analyst as saying, “Zeromax is essentially one of the facades behind which Gulnara Karimova continues to tighten her grip on any and all available sources of income in the country by any means she deems necessary, with little or no regard for legal niceties.”

FMN Logistics describes itself as “the U.S. small business contracting arm of Zeromax.” Harry Eustace Jr., FMN’s CEO, serves as a board member of the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC), where his father, Harry Eustace Sr. serves as Chairman. Eustace Sr. also is a senior advisor to Zeromax.

“The AUCC promotes trade and investment ties between the United States and Uzbekistan and lobbies against U.S. sanctions on Karimov’s government,” Foreign Policy reported. “Following the 2005 Andijan massacre — in which hundreds of unarmed protesters were mowed down by Uzbek security forces — the organization’s president, James Cornell, wrote to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to take into account the “special context” of Andijan and “not rush to conclusion or ignore the thorough investigation carried out by the government of Uzbekistan.”

FMN says it is a subcontractor on a deal for “Line Haul Trucking Operations” for the U.S. Army. The contract calls for FMN to move supplies between Tajikistan and the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, with thirty trucks a month traveling the route and carrying “outsized” equipment on low-bed trailers. FMN also claims to have serviced “every US air base in Afghanistan to date.”

My colleague Spencer Woodman called the Pentagon to ask about the situation. A spokesman declined comment on any arrangements it might have with FMN.

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