How the US Funds the Taliban

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US military’s contractors in Afghanistan pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. An estimated ten percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts of hundreds of millions of dollars are paid to insurgents. It is a fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting.

In order for the US Army to transport supplies, they have to travel great distances in trucks, and there is a price to pay. For every corridor or checkpoint they pass, soldiers must pay to pass or else they take the risk of being attacked and killed.

Ahmad Rateb Popal and his brother Rashid are cousins to Afgan President Hamid Karzai. The Popal brothers control the huge Watan Group in Afghanistan, a consortium engaged in telecommunications, logistics and, most important, security. Watan Risk Management, the Popals’ private military arm, is one of the few dozen private security companies in Afghanistan. One of Watan’s enterprises is protecting convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies. Watan is allied with the local warlord who controls the road.

The US Army is basically paying and funding the Taliban not to shoot them. NCL Holdings. Like the Popals’ Watan Risk, NCL is a licensed security company in Afghanistan. What NCL Holdings is most notorious for in Kabul contracting circles, though, is the identity of its chief principal, Hamed Wardak. He is the young American son of Afghanistan’s current defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The security firms don’t really protect convoys of American military goods, because they simply can’t; they need the Taliban’s cooperation.

Title: How the US Funds the Taliban

Source: The Nation, November 20, 2009

Author: Aram Roston,

Student Researcher: Anne Cozza

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