As a result of the waiver of Section 907 by successive administrations, Azerbaijan made hundreds of millions of dollars in United States and NATO contracts, using the Caspian country as a route for delivery of goods to Afghanistan during the height of the war. At the same time, retired U.S. generals and other personnel profited from Baku after their tours of duty ended in the U.S.-NATO schemes.
Beginning with George W. Bush Administration, which started the war in Afghanistan, all other administrations—Obama, Trump and currently Biden—have waived Section 907, which calls for restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, and entered into military agreements with Aliyev’s murderous regime.
This is the subject of an extensive expose published on Monday as its lead online story by The Washington Post, which details the trail of money flowing into Azerbaijan’s controversial Silk Way Airlines—and its parent the Silk Way Group—as well as how two retired U.S. Air Force general sought to cash in on their involvement from Baku, and Silk Way, which attempted to hire them as consultants after they left the U.S. military. The Washington Post also details how it sued, under the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain classified records showing the Air Force Review Boards Agency attempts to block one of the general’s contracts, due to conflicts with U.S. national security interests.
In the Post piece, entitled “Fearing Scandal, Air Force Blocked Generals’ Foreign Consulting Deals,” reporters Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones outline how despite concerns from the CIA and State Department about Azerbaijan’s authoritarian and corrupt practices, the U.S. military leaders looked to Azerbaijan and embraced its president Ilham Aliyev at the height of the war in Afghanistan.
“Setting aside concerns about Azerbaijan’s culture of corruption, Pentagon officials persuaded Aliyev to open his country’s borders and airspace to critical U.S. and NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. In exchange, U.S. officials promised a closer diplomatic partnership with Aliyev and steered $369 million in defense contracts to Silk Way Airlines, an Azerbaijan cargo carrier that U.S. investigators say was controlled by the government,” the Post reported.
“Two U.S. Air Force generals — Duncan McNabb and William Fraser III — who oversaw the supply routes from 2008 to 2014 later tried to cash in on their Azerbaijan connections. Upon retiring from active duty, the four-star generals negotiated valuable consulting deals with Silk Way Airlines, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act. One of them stood to earn $5,000 a day,” added the Post.
According to The Washington Post, when the collaboration between the U.S. and Azerbaijan began, Baku wanted to charge the U.S. tariff, which the Pentagon refused.
“The supply routes paid off for Azerbaijan in other ways, however. Silk Way Airlines, seeking to break into the U.S. market, received $269 million in U.S. defense contracts during McNabb’s three-year tenure at Transcom to transfer supplies from Europe to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Air Force records,” the Post reported.
McNabb and Fraser, in successive terms, were in charge of the U.S. Transportation Command, known as Transcom from 2008 to 2014. As heads of Transcom, they oversaw what the Post reported as being 25 percent of American transport of non-lethal material to Afghanistan through Azerbaijan.
While, according to the Post, McNabb did not apply for government approval when he signed a $10,000 monthly consulting contract with Silk Way, Fraser, when seeking to sign a contract that would have paid him a reported $5,000 daily salary, sought U.S. clearance, which raised alarms and red flags at the Pentagon and the State Department, which voiced their concerns to the Air Force agency about Silk Way’s ties to the Aliyev regime.
After Fraser did not receive approval for his contract, in a memo to the Air Force agency, he made remarks that were perceived as warnings, according to the Post.
“The general said he believed there would be ‘blowback for the United States’ if the Air Force didn’t let him work for Silk Way,” according to Fraser’s memo.