How Afghan contracts line Taliban pockets

September 23, 2011

In its August report, the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting provided nuts & bolts descriptions of how American taxpayer dollars have ended up in Taliban hands.

One piece of visual evidence from the report shows how the Taliban shakes down Afghan subcontractors working on U.S. reconstruction contracts.  This letter is from the “Islamic Imarat of Afghanistan” (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan), which is how the Taliban refer to themselves.

Taliban message for construction company

The Commission elaborates on how the subcontracting problem takes place (internal citations omitted):

In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. funds have been diverted to insurgents and warlords as a cost of doing business in the country. In Afghanistan, insurgents, warlords, or other groups control or contest parts of the country. They threaten to destroy projects and harm personnel. The Commission finds it particularly alarming that Afghan subcontractors on U.S.-funded convoys, road construction, and development projects pay insurgent groups for protection.

While there is no official estimate of the amount of U.S. funds diverted to insurgents, it certainly comes to a significant percentage of a project’s cost. The largest source of funding for the insurgency is commonly recognized to be money from the drug trade. During a March 2011 trip to Afghanistan, experts told the Commission that extortion of funds from U.S. construction projects and transportation contracts is the insurgent’s second-largest funding source.

Afghan contractors hired under the Host Nation Trucking program have turned to Afghan private security contractors. These Afghan subcontractors in turn pay off the insurgents or warlords who control the roads their convoys must use.

Almost 6,000 Afghan truck movements a month are funded under the program. Diversion on this scale did not occur in Iraq, where the U.S. military provided most of the escorts for similar convoys. Many contracts other than transportation provide opportunities for diversion:

  • Afghan subcontractors on a USAID community development program in Kunar Province were paying up to 20 percent of their total subcontract value to insurgents for “protection.” The USAID IG estimated that over $5 million of program funding was at risk of falling into insurgents’ hands.
  • A congressional staff report cited Afghan Taliban demands for pay-offs from businesses and households for electricity generated by USAID-funded projects. This occurs in Taliban-controlled areas like Helmand Province.

Because they directly strengthen the insurgency, diverted funds pose far more danger than other kinds of waste and have a disproportionately adverse impact on the U.S. effort.

H/t JihadWatch.

One comment

  1. […] on ISNA as an endorsing agency is reminiscent of bid scandals in Afghanistan in which U.N. and U.S. officials have awarded contracts without adequately reviewing the bona fides of the contractor or […]

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