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US payments to Taliban & Afghan warlords threaten American/NATO troops

(Part two of the series on Afghanistan)

According to separate Congressional and Senate reports, the American government pays more than $2 billion for Host Nation Trucking (HNT) or in layman’s terms, private security firms that protect U.S. military convoys and materials in dangerous tribal areas.

Currently the HNT contracts are a $2.16 billion dollar boondoggle that provides indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts ground transportation in Afghanistan for over 70 percent of Department of Defense goods and materiel, including food, water, fuel, equipment, and ammunition.

A report titled “Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan” was published by Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) in June of last year. The report detailed the billions of dollars spent to protect U.S. military supply convoys in Afghanistan- the majority of the money is paid by the DOD through defense contractors and finds its way into the hands of Taliban leaders and warlords.

According to the comprehensive report, the principal private security subcontractors on the HNT contract are warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority in the region.

“Providing ‘protection’ services for the U.S. supply chain empowers these warlords with money, legitimacy, and a raison d’être for their private armies. Although many of these warlords nominally operate under private security companies licensed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior, they thrive in a vacuum of government authority and their interests are in fundamental conflict with U.S. aims to build a strong Afghan government,” the Congressional inquiry explains.

The large infusion of U.S. cash into Afghanistan should raise eyebrows because a good number of these warlords and Taliban fighters are also connected to the production of poppies (the illicit opium trade). And according to recently leaked documents from WikiLeaks there are billions of dollars flowing out of Afghanistan that remains unaccounted for due the country’s rudimentary banking practices. (See part three of this series)

The eye-opening report comes at a time when Afghan President Hamid Karzi is stirring anti-American passions about U.S. private contractors operating in the warzone and deadly Afghani rioting over the burning of the Quran by a Florida pastor.

The dilemma for both sides regarding the use of private contractors is that U.S. and NATO members operating in Afghanistan, as well as civilian organizations and news media, need private contractors to get around a country with little to no infrastructure.

Taliban fighters and tribal leaders look to the supply line convoys as a source of income; however, the outsourcing of these contractors has significant unintended consequences.

The HNT contract fuels warlordism, extortion, and corruption, and it may be a significant source of funding for insurgents. In other words, the logistics contract has an outsized strategic impact on U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, according to the Congressional report.

Congress also contends that the “Department of Defense has been blind to the potential strategic consequences of its supply chain contingency contracting. U.S. military logisticians have little visibility into what happens to their trucks on the road and virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided. When HNT contractors self-reported to the military that they were being extorted by warlords for protection payments for safe passage and that these payments were ‘funding the insurgency,’ they were largely met with indifference and inaction.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee also sent staffers to investigate the “convoy protection” issue. Their report titled, “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan” concluded the U.S. pays trucking contractors billions of dollars a year much of it ends up in the hands of local warlords.

Another concern the Senate report highlighted that the U.S. seemed to be unknowingly fostering the Taliban and other militias when the country is struggling to build its own security forces.

“Almost all are Afghans, almost all are armed,” Senior Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) explained. “We need to shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and power brokers who act contrary to our interests and contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the Afghan people for their government.”

Like the Congressional Report, the Senate oversight testimony concluded that private security contractors suffered from systematic failures with management and widespread failures in vetting or training armed-security personnel.

Even Secretary of State Hilary Clinton acknowledged the supply line corruption activity during a December, 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting when she said, “One of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money.”

Up next, part three “Billion dollar corruption within the U.S.-picked Afghanistan government.”

Read part one of the series; US troops fight and die to preserve Shariah Law in Afghanistan

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© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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