The losses underscore the challenges the U.S. and its international partners face in overcoming corruption in Afghanistan. A central part of the Obama administration’s strategy has been to award U.S.-financed contracts to Afghan businesses to help improve quality of life and stoke the country’s economy.
The investigation into the contracts, led by U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus (above, left), reveals many connections between the Afghan companies and their subcontractors to groups which the military would classify as “malign actors.”
According to the Associated Press, the fact that the money wound up in the hands of America's enemies is a result of “reverse money laundering,” in which the United States makes payments to companies — hired by the military for construction, fuel, and other services — which in turn have ties to criminal networks and insurgents.
One of the investigative documents reports, “Funds begin as clean monies, [but] either through direct payments or through the flow of funds in the subcontractor network, the monies become tainted.”
According an unnamed senior military official, only a small percentage of the money has ended up in the hands of the Taliban, while the rest was lost through bribery, extortion, or profiteering by criminals. The official did not wish to break down the percentages, however.
The Blaze indicates that while $360 million is a “fraction of the $31 billion in active U.S. contracts,” it is certainly enough for the insurgents, who “require little money to operate.”
Likewise, the findings confirm what the International Crisis Group (ICG) refers to as a “nexus between criminal enterprises, insurgent networks and corrupt official elites.”
The report notes that more than half the lost money went to a company called Host Nation Trucking, with whom the U.S. military has a transportation contract. Researchers found that a prime contractor for the company “made payments directly to malign actors.” One of those "malign actors," identified in one of the contracts as “Rohullah,” received $1.7 million. A congressional report identifies Rohullah (spelled "Ruhallah" in the congressional report) as a warlord who controls convoy security business in Afghanistan’s two largest cities.
That congressional report also indicates that Rohullah’s armed guards would charge contractors moving American military supplies as much as $1,500 a vehicle. Failure to pay the fee often resulted in an attack by Rohullah's guards. While Rohullah’s guards also regularly clashed with the Taliban, some believe that he also funneled money to the group.
As a result of the tainted contract with Host, the Defense Department has announced it will choose 20 separate contractors for a new transportation contract potentially worth $984 million. The touted benefit is that it will reduce reliance on subcontractors, thereby lessening the risk of having U.S. money fall into the wrong hands yet again.
The military report also found that contractors regularly engaged in profiteering by creating “dummy companies.” Likewise, a number of contracts dealt with “power brokers,” a common term in Afghanistan for one who uses his political and business connections to advance his own interests. One unnamed power broker, according to the investigation, received payments from a contractor doing business with the United States for over two years, and then funneled millions to the owners of an unlicensed money exchange service used by insurgents.
Unsurprisingly, the investigation has drawn the attention of Congress, particularly Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), former chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who observed, “When war becomes good business for the insurgents, it is all the more difficult to convince them to lay down their arms.”
Though Tierney notes that the plan to sign a new trucking contract is a good first step, he remains concerned that the military lacks the ability to sufficiently monitor exactly where its payments end up.
Besides in Afghanistan and Irag, taxpayer dollars are even now assisting the rebels in Libya, many with ties to terrorism. On March 29, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) questioned James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, over “reports about the presence of al-Qaida among the rebels.” Stavridis admitted that the military had in fact “seen flickers of al-Qaida and Hezbollah.”
While the military is apparently just discovering that U.S. monies are being used to fund its enemies, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul wrote as much in 2001:
We should recognize that American tax dollars helped to create the very Taliban government that now wants to destroy us. In the late 1970s and early 80s, the CIA was very involved in the training and funding of various fundamentalist Islamic groups in Afghanistan, some of which later became today’s brutal Taliban government. In fact, the U.S. government admits to giving the groups at least 6 billion dollars in military aid and weaponry, a staggering sum that would be even larger in today’s dollars.
Our foolish funding of Afghan terrorists hardly ended in the 1980s, however. Millions of your tax dollars continue to pour into Afghanistan even today.
Paul has been a leading advocate of ending foreign aid and military intervention for this very reason. He concluded in 2001:
As we yet again find ourselves at war with forces we once funded and supported, the wisdom of foreign aid must be challenged. Peaceful relations and trade with every nation should be our goals, and the first step in accomplishing both should be to stop sending taxpayer dollars overseas.