Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Taliban takes U.S. funds, report says


WASHINGTON — Taliban and Afghan warlords are extorting some of the $2.16 billion the Defense Department has paid to local contractors who transport food, water, ammunition and fuel to U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, according to a House investigation to be released Tuesday.

Trucking contractors say they pay as much as $150,000 a month to warlords in “protection” money, and investigators concluded that payments for safe passage are a significant source of Taliban funding, according to a report by the staff of Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., who heads the House national security and foreign affairs subcommittee.

In a letter to subcommittee members, Tierney criticized the Pentagon for a contract “that put responsibility for the security of vital U.S. supplies on contractors and their unaccountable security providers.”

He wrote, “This arrangement has fueled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders and corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others.” He said the payoffs violate the law and appear “to risk undermining the U.S. strategy for achieving its goals in Afghanistan.”

Defense Department officials are scheduled to discuss the findings with the subcommittee today. Cheryl Irwin, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the Defense Department is looking into the allegations.

Eight contractors control about 70% of the transportation business in Afghanistan and serve more than 200 U.S. military bases. They work with Afghan security contractors, who cut deals with warlords and the Taliban to allow convoys to pass, the report says.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., questioned the inquiry’s thoroughness, noting that the only record of the interviews is handwritten notes.

The report cites e-mails, interviews with contractors and other documents that indicate payoffs are part of doing business.

A program manager for one trucking company told subcommittee investigators that Commander Ruhullah, a warlord who works with a private security company and controls a critical stretch of road between the capital city of Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, works closely with the Taliban. Ruhullah denied it.

The report said contractors repeatedly raised their concerns to the U.S. military about payoffs, sometimes as much as $15,000 per truck.

One contractor wrote to the Army unit overseeing trucking contractors, “I also believe that most involved in this contract knew that cash money is often the most effective security, but I do not think it was anticipated how the market would drive these prices and that cash security and special security forces would so often be the only option.”  Original here

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Pentagon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment