Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

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Sanctions needed against Pakistan’s spy agency

March 25, 2014

This piece is also published at Terror Finance Blog today:

When dealing with undesirable behavior by foreign governments, the U.S. has increasingly employed narrowly targeted sanctions against individual officials of those governments, from human rights abusers in Syria to Russian leaders responsible for the annexation of Crimea.

But the same logic has yet to be applied to the ISI, Pakistan’s terrorist-sponsoring intelligence agency, which, compared to Russia and Syria, has posed a more direct threat to U.S. forces and civilians through the ISI’s sponsorship of terrorism against our troops in Afghanistan and through the safe haven it provided to Osama Bin Laden.

New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall revealed last week that, “Soon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad,”  and that the ISI ran a special desk to “handle” Bin Laden.

The Bin Laden revelation is only the tip of the iceberg.  The Taliban itself was created by Pakistan, which allowed Al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a base for hatching the 9/11 plot.  The perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist attacks against Mumbai that left over 160 dead were also “clients and creations of the ISI.”

In an intercepted conversation, former ISI chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani was heard describing Jalaluddin Haqqani, leader of the terrorist Haqqani network, as a “strategic asset.”  That is the way that Pakistani intelligence has looked at jihadists for decades—that holy warriors provide strategic depth and variety to the conventional armed forces along Pakistan’s borders.  They regard terrorism as a tool in a broader arsenal against Pakistan’s foes, making the country a state sponsor of terrorism in the truest sense of the phrase.

Designating a foreign spy service as a terrorist entity wouldn’t be such a major leap as it appears at first blush.  Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay are already trained to treat detainees affiliated with ISI the same way they would treat detainees affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.  The approach is partly due to evidence of ISI’s role in coordinating terrorist groups in operations targeting Afghanistan and India.

There is already some support for such sanctions.  Bruce Riedel, former CIA official and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, called for individual sanctions against ISI officials.  New York writer Suketu Mehta said “America and other countries should declare Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, some of whose officials have a long history of backing terrorists attacking India, ‘a terrorist entity’.”  The Afghan National Security Council also expressed strong support last year for designating the ISI as a terrorist organization (see here and here).

Are there arguments against levying sanctions against the ISI?  Yes.  Pakistan could retaliate by ceasing its assistance to us while our troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.  But if it weren’t for Pakistan playing midwife to the Taliban, and the Taliban subsequently partnering with Al Qaeda, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 wouldn’t have happened in the first place.  It makes little sense to mollycoddle the puppet master because we think it will help us attack the puppet.

Unfortunately, sanctions often don’t achieve the desired results.  Foreign aid is fungible, and if the U.S. and U.K. continue bestowing lavish foreign aid upon Pakistan, the government there will simply be able to move money from development and education projects toward military and intelligence operations.

But to the extent that we use sanctions at all as an instrument of foreign policy, it should be done for the right reasons.  Lately we use sanctions like a necktie that we wear to look fashionable, while absentmindedly dangling the tie over a paper shredder.  Rather than a entangling ourselves in the regional or internal affairs of bad actors in places where we have few interests, sanctions should be used as a tool used to serve our own national security interests, and to contain those whose actions do us harm.

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Terror funding & financial crime predictions for 2014

December 31, 2013
  1. As U.S. troops depart Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban is poised for a banner year, financially speaking.  The Pakistani Taliban is laying the groundwork for a resurgence too, accumulating money from an extortion spree against businessmen (see here, here, here, here, and here) throughout 2013.
  2. The 28-page section of the 2002 report from Joint Congressional Inquiry into Sept. 11, 2001, implicating Saudi financing of the 9/11 hijackers could either be declassified or leaked in 2014.  Enough of a consensus is gathering that the section was redacted for diplomatic purposes, and should be disclosed so the American people know the truth (or at least more of the truth than is already known about Saudi Arabia’s role in financing global terrorism).
  3. “A major data destruction attack will happen,” and ransomware will be involved.  Websense explains, “Historically, most attackers have used a network breach to steal information for profit. In 2014, organizations will need to be concerned about nation-states and cyber-criminals using a breach to destroy data. Ransomware will play a part in this trend and move down market to small and medium sized organizations.”
  4. Narendra Modi could become elected prime minister of India next year.  Mr. Modi has spoken out against corruption, black money, hawala, and terrorism to a greater degree than the current ruling Congress party.  His victory would represent a significant threat to the established criminal and terrorist underworld in India and Kashmir that are being backed by Pakistan.
  5. New legislation including, at the federal level, renewed sanctions against Iran, and at the state level, sharia law bans (“American laws for American courts” initiatives), and anti-fraud legislation at the state level dealing with no-fault car insurance fraud and counterfeit airbags, may be enacted in 2014.

Some other thoughts come to us from the Council on Foreign Relations, which has published an interesting forecast of 2014 based on surveys of public officials and experts, including the possibility of major terrorist attacks in the U.S., in Kashmir, and by al-Shabaab against Somalia’s neighbors.

Incidentally, prosecutors in the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are pushing for a fall 2014 trial, although defense lawyers have argued that will be too soon.

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Top terror finance stories of 2013

December 30, 2013

From massacres on the streets of Syria to the streets of Boston, 2013 has offered far too many illustrations of how terror-borne bloodshed is financed:

  1. Sunni and Western powers risk funding Syrian rebels despite their Al Qaeda allegiance
    Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the U.S., U.K., and France have provided money and supplies to the enemies of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad despite the risk of the materiel falling into the wrong hands.  Gulf-based support has gone directly toward Salafist fighters; Western aid has been targeted toward the supposedly moderate Free Syrian Army, but entire brigades of the FSA have pledged allegiance to al-Nusra Front—Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria—during 2013.  Reports this month of a “suspension” of U.S. aid have been somewhat exaggerated; as one official conceded, “the suspension of aid only applies to the opposition in northern Syria, adding that supply lines from Jordan in the south would continue.”  Foreign support has prolonged the conflict in Syria and increased the chances for Al Qaeda to take over the country.
  2. Boston marathon bombing made possible by Saudi money
    North Caucuses militants have been funded for decades by Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis and their wealthy expatriate terrorists like Ibn al-Khattab  and Osama Bin Laden and invested millions of dollars into the training and recruitment of fighters, the construction of radical mosques, and the creation of jihadist websites in Slavic languages.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev read and engaged with these websites and pursued support from these Saudi-sponsored sources when he traveled to Russia in 2012.  Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar also learned from Inspire magazine by deceased terror imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who presided over Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.In effect, Saudi money created the breeding environment both online and on the ground in the North Caucuses in which the Tsarnaevs’ plot was hatched.

    Sadly, the media and public officials have been slow to recognize and expose the connections between the Saudis, the North Caucasus militants, and their followers living in North America.  Two Democrat-appointed federal judges inexplicably reversed the conviction this year of Pete Seda, a Muslim “peace activist” who sent money through a Saudi-based charity from Oregon to Chechen terrorists in the early 2000s.

  3. The U.S. became the world’s #1 energy producer in 2013.  This development reduces our dependence on Arab oil and the flow of petrodollars that fund terrorism.
  4. The compensation of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism was ignored during negotiations in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program.
  5. The Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab’s finances rebounded in 2013 despite their loss of control in 2012 of the key harbor in Kismayo to Kenyan, African Union, and allied forces.  The main ingredients in their financial resurgence included an expansion al-Shabaab’s lucrative charcoal smuggling operation, the resumption of payments from the Dahabshiil money service to al-Shabaab, and indirect support from the Gulf.  The funding has allowed operations such as killing sprees in Mogadishu and the September terrorist attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya.  Nevertheless, a British court injunction has forced Barclays to continue partnering with Dahabshiil to facilitate remittances to Somalia.
  6. Read the rest of this entry ?
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2014 will be bumper year for Taliban

December 1, 2013

One of the most striking failures of counterterror finance since 9/11 has been the international inability to de-fund the Taliban.  The Taliban has maintained robust, balanced revenue sources that haven’t changed too much from the type and amount of money they collected to propel them to power in the 1990s.  As ISAF troops depart, the Taliban is poised to profit even more, according to a new UN report reviewed by The Guardian:

…The Taliban remains a powerful and well-funded force, the report says, with the movement raising $155m in 2012 from illegal opium production.

Although the amount of protection money that insurgents receive from security companies employed to guard Nato supply convoys has fallen as foreign forces close bases, the report says 2014 is expected to be a bumper year as the alliance ships huge amounts of equipment out of the country.

It also warns that the Taliban is skimming profit off illegally mined gemstones, including rubies and emeralds. Afghanistan has an estimated $1tn worth of mineral reserves, which it is hoped will eventually help to pay for the country’s 352,000-strong security force.

The report says Kabul needs to do much more to prevent high-grade industrial explosives reaching the hands of Taliban bomb-makers, whose weapons are becoming “increasingly sophisticated and technically advanced” and now account for 80% of army and police casualties…

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Cleric approved kidnap-for-ransom scheme

November 28, 2013

Dawn reports that five members of the Pakistani Taliban were approved to engage in widespread abductions of religious minorities to help fund their operations.  “An unidentified cleric” granted the approval, probably at least partially based on the Qur’an, Sura 47, Verse 4, which allows for the release or ransom of non-Muslim captives depending on the needs of the Muslim community at the time.

Robert Spencer has the details:

Pakistan: Islamic jihad group planned kidnap of Shias and Ahmadis for ransom

This is an Islamically approved method of fundraising, much preferable to crowdfunding at Indiegogo. Kidnapping infidels and releasing them for ransom or killing them, as well as enslaving them if that option is deemed most advantageous for the Muslims, is fully sanctioned in Islamic law: “As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, ‘When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks’ (Qur’an sura 47, verse 4)” — Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance), trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192. “‘TTP planned kidnap of Shias, Ahmadis for ransom,’” by Mohammad Saleem from Dawn, November 13 (thanks to Lookmann):

FAISALABAD: The banned Pakistan Tehreek-i-Taliban’s local militants had allegedly been assigned the task of kidnapping members of Shia and Ahmadi communities for ransom for fundraising.

The plan, according to sources, was revealed by five militants during their interrogation by intelligence agencies.

The five alleged TTP terrorists — Usman Ghani alias Talha of Jameel Town, Ghulam Mohammadabad, Ali Azam alias Farooq of Razabad, Mubashar Nadeem alias Bao of Chak Jhumra, Usman of Lahore and Shahzad Ali of Gurunanakpura – had been produced before the media by the police at a press conference on Nov 5.

The sources said the plan to kidnap members of two communities was approved after an ‘edict’ in favour of such kidnappings for ransom issued by an unidentified cleric.

According to the sources, the militants told their investigators that they would raise funds for terrorist activities by looting houses of Shia community members and stealing PTCL cables.

They also confessed that they would send a part of their ill-gotten money to their group leader, Qari Imran, in Miramshah…

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Haqqani financier with deep Gulf ties killed

November 24, 2013

The chief money man behind the Haqqani network, Nasiruddin Haqqani, has been shot dead.  He has been under U.S. sanctions since 2010; at the time the Treasury Department said, “From at least 2005 to 2009, Nasiruddin Haqqani collected funds for the Haqqani Network, including during a 2008 fundraising trip to a Gulf state and during regular travel to the (UAE) in 2007. As of mid-2007, Haqqani reportedly received funding from ­donations from the Gulf region, drug trafficking, and payments from al-Qa’ida. In 2004, he traveled to Saudi Arabia with a Taliban associate to raise funds for the Taliban.”

Nasiruddin Haqqani used to live next door to the headquarters of ISI, the Pakistani spy agency, with whom he collaborated.

The BBC reports:

… As the group’s main fundraiser, Nasiruddin frequently travelled to the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Middle East to solicit donations.

He represented the Haqqani network in last year’s efforts to set up a Taliban office in Doha for peace talks with the United States.

He was also the group’s main contact person for pro-Taliban elements in Pakistan, as well as its representative with the Afghan Taliban.

‘Well-dressed networker’

Unlike his father and many of his brothers, Nasiruddin Haqqani and two of his uncles did not live in Miran Shah in North Waziristan. He chose to base himself near Islamabad, from where he made his many journeys abroad to secure funds.

Some sources said he had major business interests in the Gulf, including a transport company.

Nasiruddin is not thought to have been publicly photographed.

Those who have met him describe a tall, educated, well-dressed man who travelled in expensive cars and networked an extensive list of contacts all the time.

They say his appearance gave no clue to his militant connections. His code name was “the doctor”, possibly because of a degree that he had studied for.

His death will be a major blow to the Haqqanis, who will need to find someone else to spearhead their efforts to secure financing…

Shouldn’t be too hard for the ISI to anoint somebody else.

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Washington Post: lost battle against narcotics in Afghanistan one of “starkest failures” of Obama war strategy

November 18, 2013

On its news pages, not its opinion section, the Washington Post reports the U.S. has “lost its battle” against drugs in Afghanistan.  The collusion between Afghan elites and the poppy industry will only get worse as U.S. troops exit.  One Afghan official is quoted as saying, “the drug economy is fueling terrorism, destabilizing the region and the global village. It is vanishing the achievements of the past 10 years.”

The Taliban is one of the beneficiaries of this industry, from which traditional Islamic ushr taxation on poppy harvests and other drug profits will enable them to keep more fighters on the payroll, buy more weapons, and launch more attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond.

As U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, poppy trade it spent billions fighting still flourishes

By Ernesto Londoño, Published: November 3

The United States is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan having lost its battle against the country’s narcotics industry, marking one of the starkest failures of the 2009 strategy the Obama administration pursued in an effort to turn around the war.

Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, according to law enforcement officials and counternarcotics experts. As the war economy contracts, opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, are poised to play an ever larger role in the country’s economy and politics, undercutting two key U.S. goals: fighting corruption and weakening the link between the insurgency and the drug trade.

The Afghan army opted this spring for the first time in several years not to provide security to eradication teams in key regions, forgoing a dangerous mission that has long embittered rural Afghans who depend on the crop for their livelihoods.

Experts say that, in the end, efforts over the past decade to rein in cultivation were stymied by entrenched insecurity in much of the country, poverty, and the ambivalence — and, at times, collusion — of the country’s ruling class.

With a presidential election just months away, political will for anti-drug initiatives is weak among members of the Afghan elite, many of whom have become increasingly dependent on the proceeds of drugs as foreign funding dries up, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, who heads the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan. “Money is less and less available within the licit economy,” he said. “The real danger is the weakened resistance to corruption and to involvement in a distorted political economy, which weakens your resistance to collusion with the enemy”…

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Taliban force businessmen to support jihad

October 18, 2013

Even after formally being out of power for a dozen years, the Taliban has been able to sustain diversified and balanced revenue streams from a wider span of sources than nearly any other terrorist group on earth.  They collect royalties on opium and ordinary crops, taxes on shipments within and beyond Afghanistan, state sponsorship through Pakistan’s ISI spy service, zakat from wealthy Gulf donors siphoned through third party Islamic charities, jizya from Sikhs and other religious minorities in South and Central Asia, and ransoms from ordinary and wealthy Pakistanis—all of which they justify on the basis of Islamic law.

Dawn calls the ransoms “extortion,” which is vibrant and growing enterprise for Mullah Omar’s men:

Terror group sees Islamabad as a lucrative city for extortions

For the last couple of years, the capital city has seen an alarming increase in extortion cases. Unable to trace the culprits, the police say an outlawed terror group is behind the crime.

The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has a hand in all the small and big extortion incidents. The terror outfit is involved in extorting money from rich people directly and indirectly, a police officer told Dawn on the condition of anonymity. He added that the TTP was found directly involved in targeting big businessmen, traders and professionals, especially doctors. But these cases were not so rampant.

The disturbing factor is that the TTP was also indirectly encouraging small groups to collect extortions and share the money with it. This racket of splinter groups has widened its activities across the city but most of the cases are not reported to the police on time, he said.

The TTP started getting extortions after its traditional source of foreign funding was either plugged or reduced. In the early days, militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan used to receive funds from abroad.

Though the militant groups still receive funds from other countries, they are not sufficient to carry out terror activities. This has forced them to look for other sources of income inside the country, with extortion, kidnapping for ransom and bank robberies being the most lucrative of them.

It was in September 2012 when the police arrested three people in the capital city and unearthed the TTP’s direct involvement in receiving extortions. The network had demanded Rs 6 million as extortion from a trader in the Blue Area.

During investigation, the accused disclosed that they collected extortions from traders and transferred the money to Manchester, UK, through Hundi for onward delivery to the terror network.

In June this year, traders of Sabzi Mandi informed the police that a group of Afghan nationals was forcing extortions from them, but when the police registered a case, the group escaped from the area. During investigation of the case, it was revealed in August that some people in Khana Pul, Sihala and Mandi Mor areas also collected millions of rupees every month and diverted them to militant outfits, the officer added.

The second direct involvement of the TTP in extortion came to light when a business centre in Sihala was attacked a week back. This was the second attack on the centre since July 26.

On June 17, Mohammad Raja Asif, the owner of the centre, received a telephone call in which the caller threatened him to pay Rs100 million. Later, he continued receiving similar calls from different local and Afghan numbers.

On July 26, his business centre was attacked with hand grenades in which his office was damaged. The next day – July 27 – he received another call from an Afghanistan-based number and the caller told him that the attack was the result of his failure to pay the extortion sum.

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Taliban nets 650 million rupees from ransoms

September 27, 2013

In the last 18 months, the Taliban has received at least Rs 650 million (over 6 million USD), in ransoms for kidnapping businessmen in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan.  The International News speculates that the real figure is higher than official reports—probably billions of Pakistan rupees.  Some of the captives’ families are able to pay the ransoms; some are not.  Those who don’t are killed:

Over Rs650m paid to Taliban as ransom

Billions of rupees paid but not reported; police, agencies totally flopped

Usman Manzoor

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Despite the payment of hundreds of millions from taxpayers’ money, not only the police but all the intelligence and law enforcement agencies have failed to trace extortion and kidnapping for ransom cases in the federal capital and Rawalpindi, being carried out by the Taliban.

Latest official documents show that some Rs650 million have been paid to the Taliban by the businessmen of the twin cities during the last 18 months alone. The billions of rupees paid have not been reported to the police and agencies, and the businessmen have dealt secretly with the Taliban to save their lives.

Documents available with The News reveal that in Rawalpindi and Islamabad alone, a list of 45 cases of kidnapping for ransom and extortion has been prepared in which Rs653 million have been paid to Taliban while billions have remained undiscovered…

The report submitted to the high-ups of the police, accompanied by the list of 45 cases since January 2012, states that at least four traders have been killed by the Taliban for not obeying their command to pay ransom and extortion money…

The Taliban is biding their time until U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.  They’ve got plenty of money in the bank from schemes like this to coopt, bribe, or conquer Karzai.  While asset freezes and sanctions against Al Qaeda have been somewhat useful, Western financial pressure on the Taliban has been ineffective for a decade.

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Term of the week: Afghan Trade Transit

August 28, 2013

In their 2010 book, Cassara and Jorisch defined the Afghan Trade Transit (ATT) as:

A regional agreement between landlocked Afghanistan and its neighbors that allows goods to be imported into the country with preferential duties.  The trade has resulted in massive smuggling and trade fraud, and it continues to facilitate the laundering of narcotics proceeds that help finance the Taliban.

The ATT agreement has since been modified, and merchandise that passes from Afghanistan through Pakistan has diminished by 50 percent according to a recent report from the major Pakistani newspaper Dawn.  Nevertheless, Dawn’s sources say that the renegotiated treaty really only hurts normal trade, but that smuggling continues unabated:

… A customs official familiar with these developments told Dawn that including stringent clauses in the treaty were unlikely to help curb smuggling.

“Now containers imported through Iranian ports are smuggled to Pakistan through the same routes,” he said.

The only difference, the official added, was that earlier a huge number of Pakistanis were getting jobs directly or indirectly, and now they were transferred to Iran. He said: “The smuggling can only be discouraged through reducing duties on smuggling-prone items and effective surveillance of the border”…

Guess the Taliban can breathe easy again.

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Contract mismanagement still benefits Taliban

August 16, 2013

It is only partly an Army failure. It is, more centrally, a strategic and political failure. It’s a strategic failure of counter-insurgency doctrine that says we can peel away enough “moderate” Taliban supporters to reconcile with Karzai by bribing them with U.S., U.N., NATO, and Afghan government contracts and jobs. And it’s a political failure of believing that we can dump taxpayer dollars oversees to conduct nation building in a notoriously corrupt country without aiding the wrong parties.

Thanks to El Grillo for sending this in from this Christian Science Monitor:

US auditor finds taxpayer money flowing to Taliban, Al Qaeda – but Army refuses to act

Warnings from the US government’s internal auditor that an ongoing $20 billion Afghanistan reconstruction program is lining the pockets of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been ignored.

By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / July 30, 2013

The US military has been ignoring warnings that its spending in Afghanistan is funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), appears to have had enough.

He issued a blistering cover letter with SIGAR’s quarterly report to Congress today that called into question what “appears to be a growing gap between the policy objectives of Washington and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan.”

The US has $20 billion of Afghan reconstruction spending scheduled, and a further $10 billion requested for the 2014 budget. But after 11 years of war, there are “serious shortcomings in US oversight of contracts: poor planning, delayed or inadequate inspections, insufficient documentation, dubious decisions, and – perhaps most troubling – a pervasive lack of accountability,” Mr. Sopko wrote. Good intentions, he added, appear to be running way ahead of commitment to execution.

But Sopko’s greatest degree of scorn is reserved for ongoing contracting with businesses that his office is convinced finance the insurgents trying to topple the US-supported Afghan government and kill US troops.

“In conclusion I would also like to reiterate the concerns I raised in our last report about the Army’s refusal to act on SIGAR’s recommendations to prevent supporters of the insurgency, including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda, from receiving government contracts. SIGAR referred 43 such cases to the Army recommending suspension and debarment, based on detailed supporting information demonstrating that these individuals and companies are providing material support to the insurgency in Afghanistan. But the Army rejected all 43 cases. The Army Suspension and Debarment Office appears to believe that suspension or debarment of these individuals and companies would be a violation of their due process rights if based on classified information or if based on findings by the Department of Commerce.

I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the US government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract”…

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