Government leaders are closely linked to ownership of some of the major Afghan-owned security companies, an investigation by The Killid Group has revealed.
President Hamed Karzai has openly accused the companies of thefts, murders, kidnappings and cooperating with the enemy.
The investigation indicates that over 5,000 armed men have been working with security groups belonging to the president’s family members or people close to him.
We also learned that some members of the Northern Alliance, who initially started security companies, have moved into the logistics business – they pay security companies smaller sums to guard their convoys. Interviews with senior officials of six of the biggest companies confirm that the companies belong to such power-brokers.
President Karzai’s statements, we discovered, have had an impact on them – creating a rift between the owners. Some have stepped back and seemingly will end their activities; others have scoffed at the president’s remarks and believe he will be unable to shut down the firms.
Companies connected to President Karzai’s family and close associates
ASIA SECURITY GROUP
This company has belonged to the president’s cousin, Hashmat Karzai, son of Khalil Khan Karzai. Both brothers – Hashmat and Hekmat – are close to President Karzai.
Asia Security Group (ASG), based in Sherpur, Kabul, operates with hundreds of guards, and sources in the security business say it has contracts to escort the coalition forces’ supply convoys to the south.
Now President Karzai has demanded that the security firms be shut down. Hashmat Karzai says that he is no longer the owner of ASG. He said it has been a while since he sold the company; when we asked why he sold ASG, he said he didn’t like it, so he sold it. However, the company’s permit in the records of AISA (the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency) is in the name of Hashmat Karzai, and security guards with ASG cap badges can be seen around his guesthouse in Kabul.
WATAN RISK MANAGEMENT
KANDAHAR SECURITY GROUP
The leading operations by private security companies in southern Afghanistan are undertaken by these two organisations. Many staff members confirmed off the record that the president’s half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, has a major role in both companies.
Watan Risk Management is part of Watan Group, owned by brothers Ahmad Rateb Popal and Ahmad Rashed Popal, who are distant relatives of the President . Kandahar Security Group has been operating under Ruhullah (who only uses one name), another distant relative.
As an operations commander for Watan Risk, Ruhullah said on August 9 that he welcomed the president’s decision on security companies and had resigned from his job there, but, during an interview that day with Killid, he confirmed he remained active in Kandahar Security Group.
Ruhullah has been a famous commander of security companies for seven years and ran an unregistered company called Amneyat Commando for four years. It used to operate on the Kandahar-Helmand highway and then merged with Watan Risk, which escorts NATO supply convoys from Maidan-e-Shahr to Kandahar and Helmand.
Watan Risk has been accused of paying tax to the Taliban and bribing them. Ruhullah denied co-operating with them, and told Killid that the Americans had conducted an inquiry into this. He said: “U.S. congressmen called Rashed Popal, Rateb Popal and I to Dubai where we had an eight-hour meeting. They had no evidence and just made claims. We showed them where we spent the 10 million dollars that was our income … we finally convinced them.”
Ruhullah said he had not watched the video uploaded on You Tube in which his armed men are torturing some unknown people and later beheading them. But he said: “Anyone who was slaughtered must have been those who slaughter our men. This was done by my guards. I was in Kabul … There are 200 staff on the highway and they see one of their comrades being killed – if a Taliban soldier falls into their hands, they do the same to him,” he said.
When asked how we can believe the men his guards beheaded were Taliban and not civilians, he replied: “Taliban and civilian cannot be distinguished in the video – it is not written on their face whether they’re Taliban or civilians. The people killed were those who tried to kill me, and … if the Taliban accuse me of killing 5000 of their men, I won’t deny their allegation.”
He denies partnering with Wali Karzai. He says: “I swear by God that Wali Karzai doesn’t even have one percent share in our company or any other company. This is all nonsense to say he is a shareholder.”
Ruhullah said 98 percent of the process for Kandahar’s official registration – the company employs 2,200 guards – had been completed. Now the permit only requires the President’s signature, but he is no longer sure whether the president will give his approval.
Companies with ties to senior Afghan officials
STRATEGIC SECURITY SOLUTIONS INTERNATIONAL
This company (SSSI) belongs to Haji Hassin, brother of Marshal Qasim Fahim, First Vice-President.
Ahmad Fawad, who holds the license for the company, confirmed that it was Haji Hassin’s business. Hassin was in London, he said this week, and he could not give an interview while Hassin was away. SSSI is registered at AISA as an English company.
NCL belongs to Hamed Wardak, the son of Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. Hamed is founder, chairman and CEO of NCL Holdings, which includes logistics and security operations. The permit for NCL has been issued to Najib Wardak, a former security commander in Baghlan province and a U.S. citizen.
Hamed Wardak is in the U.S. and has been vehemently criticizing President Karzai’s policies; he says he has started a party called Fidayane Sulh (which translates as Sacrificing for Peace). When we saw Najib Wardak, he said he had quit his job with NCL and had not even received his 10 percent share from the company.
Elite belongs to Sadeeq Mujadadi, son of Sebghatullah Mujadadi, head of the Meshrana Jirga or Senate, and briefly President in 1992. Mr. Mujadadi is currently in Turkey, but his partner in the company, Mawdood Popal, told Killid that he was considering stopping the operations of the company, due it having no contracts. He added that other sections of the company, such as logistics and construction, would continue operating. Mawdood disagreed with President Karzai’s statement that security companies do not provide security for Afghanistan. He said: “The security companies provide security for those who pay them; they provide security for the convoys in return for payment.”
RESERVE OPERATIONS UNIT
Matiullah Khan, a police officer who also runs a militia group, has more than 3,000 armed men operating in Uruzgan, where he is in charge of the Kandahar-Uruzgan highway. He lives in the family home of Jan Muhammad Khan, a former governor of Uruzgan, who boasts of being an advisor-minister to President Karzai. Matiullah Khan told Killid in an interview: “I have 648 men as part of the Ministry of Interior, but more than 3,000 men have picked up their weapons from their houses and are working with me. I get their salaries and other benefits from the foreigners’ convoys and each one of them is paid $240 per month.”
Shamshad belongs to Abdul Raof Zadran, son of Padsha Khan Zadran, the former governor of Paktia province and now a member of parliament. His brother, Abdul Wali Zadran, is district governor of Wazi Zadran district in Paktia province. Shamshad escorts the foreign convoys on the Khost-Gardez highway. Interviewed by Killid, Abdul Raof said he was considering increasing the number of guards and expanding the company. He says he has no connections with the Taliban nor any plans to deal with them. Shamshad has no official permit, but Zadran says he has received a temporary permit from Paktia province.
NORTHERN ALLIANCE LINKED COMPANIES
One owner of a security company is Jalaludin Rabbani, son of Burhanudin Rabbani, who was President from 1992 to 1996, and again briefly in 2001.
Nazir Shafaee, in charge of Burhanudin Rabbani’s office, told us that they were going to call the company Afghanistan Risk, but they couldn’t do so, for some unspecified reason. Jalaludin was in Canada, and at present we can provide no further details of the company.
Members of the Northern Alliance were the first to cooperate with the foreign forces. Now some have opened logistics companies – and make more money. Ruhullah, the director of Kandahar Security Group says: “Most security companies have contracts with the logistics companies and not with foreign forces. When these companies transport a vehicle for foreign forces, they charge them $4000 for each vehicle and then they sign a contract with us, but they pay us only $500 to $800 when we escort them.”
One security company, Afghanistan Navin, belongs to Lutfullah, a commander who fought with jehadi leader Abdulrab Rasul Sayaf.
Amanullah Guzar, one of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud’s commanders, has been reported as Lutfullah’s partner, though the latter denied. it
Navin has a big contract with Bagram military base, and his company regularly escorts foreign convoys from Shair Khan in Kunduz province to Bagram, and from there to Ghazni. Lutfullah said he has 500 guards.
Khurasan Security Company belongs to Wahidullah Frozi, the brother of Haji Khalil-Khalillulah Frozi-chief executive of Kabul Bank. The Panjshiri brothers’ company provides security for Kabul Bank.
The employees of the security companies are paid at least $200 and on average $400 per month, but those working on highways and in insecure areas make up to $800 per month. There is tough competition between the companies operating on highways – to the point that some company owners are convinced their convoys are attacked by competitors, not just by insurgents.
In June, a US Congessional investigation published the report “Warlord Inc”, probing the bribes paid to the Taliban to allow convoys through. But this is not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan – Ruhullkah described how, during the 1980s, Soviet supplies used to be transported by people who bribed the Mujahidin.
We asked Abdul Rahim Salarzoi, the owner of Salarzoi Company, who they pay on the Kabul-Kandahar highway. He said they pay only some individuals living in the area, to tell them whether or not the Taliban have set an ambush – and if so, where. He says most of the reports they get are accurate.
Will President Karzai shut down the security companies, employing as many as 50,000 guards, in four months, as he has said? With 90 percent of the companies providing services to foreign troops and institutions, how will the vacuum created by their closure be filled? Will it be acceptable to the foreign forces when Karzai says the guards working for these companies should be part of the Afghan National Army and National Police? Many running the firms are former army generals or police officers – who typically quit their jobs for better salaries in the private sector. Original Story here