A new report titled “Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan” was published by Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) in June. The report details the millions of dollars spent to protect U.S. military supply convoys in Afghanistan- the majority of the money is paid out from the Department of Defense through the use of defense contractors and often finds its way into the hands of shady characters.
The eye-opening report comes at a time when Afghan President Hamid Karzi is making a stink about U.S. private contractors operating in the warzone and has now set a four-month timetable for their withdrawal.
The dilemma for the private contractors is that U.S. and NATO members operating in Afghanistan, as well as civilian organizations and news media, use private contractors to get around a country with little infrastructure.
But according to the Congressional report, there are only 114 U.S. citizens (Department of Defense Private Contractors) inside Afghanistan – the remaining private contractor personnel is 13,916 from local or host country and 409 are various third country nationals.
If the Karzi government really wants the U.S. contractors out of the country they could load them up on a single plane in a couple of hours, says a former DoD contractor. Karzi complains that private contractors travel throughout the country with guns prominently displayed and disrupting traffic, yet the majority of the security detail comes from Afghanis the president is complaining about.
One must also look to the reason why U.S. and NATO allies require protection in the first place. Taliban fighters and tribal leaders look to the supply line convoys as a source of income; however outsourcing to these contractors has significant unintended consequences.
The Host Nation Trucking (HNT) contract fuels warlordism, extortion, and corruption, and it may be a significant source of funding for insurgents. In other words, the logistics contract has an outsized strategic impact on U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, according to the Congressional report.
The report also contends that the “Department of Defense has been blind to the potential strategic consequences of its supply chain contingency contracting. U.S. military logisticians have little visibility into what happens to their trucks on the road and virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided. When HNT contractors self-reported to the military that they were being extorted by warlords for protection payments for safe passage and that these payments were ‘funding the insurgency,’ they were largely met with indifference and inaction.”
Even Secretary of State Hilary Clinton acknowledged the supply line corruption activity during a December, 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting and said, “One of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money.”
According to the report, the principal private security subcontractors on the HNT contract are warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority.
“Providing ‘protection’ services for the U.S. supply chain empowers these warlords with money, legitimacy, and a raison d’etre for their private armies. Although many of these warlords nominally operate under private security companies licensed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior, they thrive in a vacuum of government authority and their interests are in fundamental conflict with U.S. aims to build a strong Afghan government,” the Congressional inquiry explains.
Currently the HNT contracts are a $2.16 billion dollar boondoggle that provides indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts to provide ground transportation in Afghanistan for over 70 percent of Department of Defense goods and materiel, including food, water, fuel, equipment, and ammunition.
The large infusion of U.S. cash into Afghanistan should raise eyebrows because a good number of these warlords and Taliban fighters are also connected to the production of poppies (the illicit opium trade). And according to recently leaked documents from WikiLeaks there are billions of dollars flowing out of Afghanistan that remains unaccounted for due the country’s rudimentary banking practices.
This reporter will begin a series of stories delving into the black-ops, shady bookkeeping and misused money the war in Afghanistan is guilty of and hopes to shed some light on a very unpopular war.
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