Ohio’s Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a strident anti-war crusader, cited a report on the floor of the House of Representatives Tuesday which claims that US tax dollars used by defense contractors to bribe the Taliban in Afghanistan ultimately help fund attacks “on our troops.”
“U.S. contractors are paying U.S. tax dollars to the Taliban in order to protect the delivery of U.S. shipments of U.S. goods to U.S. soldiers so that our soldiers can fight the Taliban,” Kucinich’s press release sent to RAW STORY states.
The congressman said “in an investigative expose, The Nation magazine reveals “how the U.S. funds the Taliban” and “with Pentagon cash, contractors bribe the insurgents not to attack supply for U.S. troops.”
Kucinich continued: “Another quote: ‘The real secret to trucking in Afghanistan is ensuring security on the perilous roads patrolled by warlords, insurgents, tribal militias and Taliban commandeers. The American executive I spoke to was fairly specific about it. The army is basically paying the Taliban not to shoot at them,’ and then the Taliban uses that money to shoot at our troops. What a racket.”
“Are we in Afghanistan to fight or to fund the Taliban? Or both?” Kucinich asks.
From Aram Roston’s November 11 report for the Nation:
Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahedeen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.
In this grotesque carnival, the US military’s contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. “It’s a big part of their income,” one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents.
Understanding how this situation came to pass requires untangling two threads. The first is the insider dealing that determines who wins and who loses in Afghan business, and the second is the troubling mechanism by which “private security” ensures that the US supply convoys traveling these ancient trade routes aren’t ambushed by insurgents.
Ransoms also allegedly help fund attacks on NATO troops.
Although the US military says only a fraction of its cargo is lost to insurgent attacks, commanders are concerned by a more insidious threat. Taliban fighters have turned Nato’s huge logistics chain into a big source of funds by extorting money from hauliers and kidnapping their drivers for ransom, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, the companies say.
The militants’ ability to prey on supply lines on both sides of the border shows how the Afghan conflict fuels a self-sustaining war economy in which the boundaries between insurgency, organised crime and banditry are blurred.
As Barack Obama, the US president, considers whet-her to declare a fresh troop surge , trucking companies are wondering whether more soldiers will mean safer roads or bigger convoys for the Taliban to milk. “Even a small boy can hold up a truck,” said Saboor Halamey, the vice-president of Mushtair Trading and Transportation Company, a Kabul-based haulier. “It’s a big source of money for the insurgents.”
The US relies on an array of private contractors in Pakistan and Afghanistan to provide the thousands of trucks needed to maintain its supply lines, presenting a soft target for insurgents in search of funds.
An October story in The New York Times only briefly noted the money the Taliban earns from ransoms and “protection payments.”
A third major source of financing for the Taliban is criminal activity, including kidnappings and protection payments from legitimate businesses seeking to operate in Taliban-controlled territory, American authorities say.
The United States has created two new entities aimed at disrupting the trafficking networks and illicit financing. One group, the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, is located at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul. The second group, the Illicit Finance Task Force based in Washington, also aims to identify and disrupt the financial networks supporting terrorists and narcotics traffickers in the region.
A Democratic senator believes that it might be best to pay the Taliban fighters to lay down arms.
In an interview with PRI’s The World, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) spoke about his plan “to pay Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul.”
KATY CLARK: As we heard a minute ago, the US paid insurgents in Iraq to stop fighting American troops, and it worked. Some 90,000 Sunni militants joined the Awakening Councils in exchange for about $300 a month. Now Congress wants to use that strategy in Afghanistan. The defense spending bill that President Obama signed yesterday includes a provision allowing the Pentagon to reward Taliban fighters who renounce the insurgency. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin was behind that provision. Senator Levin, how exactly is this going to work. I mean, given an Afghan government and society that’s so rife with corruption, don’t you start getting into trouble when you offer money for allegiance?
CARL LEVIN: Well, you sure have to be cautious, but there was plenty of corruption in Iraq as well, but they worked out a plan to provide this very small stipend to about 90,000 Iraqis to switch sides, and instead of fighting us, to protect their communities. That’s what most of them are doing. They’re involved in security protection work to see if they can’t make their villages and towns safer. About 10,000 of the 100,000 young Iraqis are actually in the Iraqi government now. But we authorized the use of these commander funds, these emergency funds, for this purpose. But it’s also essential that there be a plan. We don’t have a plan yet. One of the generals, NATO generals, is working on a plan. We should have had this in place some time ago in my judgment. It can’t just be throwing money at the problem, but we have to have that money ready to go if and when, and hopefully it’s soon, the plan to do this is put in place.
CLARK: And who would be handing out the money? Would it be US forces or the Afghan government?
LEVIN: That’s part of the decision that could be made in the plan. We haven’t written the plan. What we’ve authorized the funds is to help fund a plan which would be written by NATO.
CLARK: Well, some US commanders refer to the $10 Taliban, meaning that fighters are getting about $10 a day to take on the US troops. Is that what Washington might be paying?
LEVIN: It would be a modest amount. We don’t set the amount. We know it will be very little, because we know that the Taliban doesn’t pay much, but they pay. It’s better than nothing for these young, desperate men. We’re only talking here about the low level folks. We’re not talking about Taliban commanders or those who are religious fanatics. You’re not going to be able to get them to switch sides.
CLARK: It seemed as if many of these guys who are fighting US forces over there think that they’re actually winning, so why would they take $10 or $20 to stop fighting US forces if they think they’re really going to win the whole war there?
LEVIN: Well, the Taliban commanders aren’t going to stop. The question is, whether or not the large number of local fighters would stop. Those people who are making bombs, attacking our vehicles, because we’re there and because they’re paid to do that, the amount of pay they’re getting is very small, and we can quite easily compete with that. Also, there’s some real risk that they’re taking. A lot of these young fighters are getting killed. They’re also on the outs, in many cases, with their own communities. You know, the Taliban is hated in Afghanistan.
It isn’t just Americans hoping to use money to win Afghanistan hearts and minds.
“British forces should buy off potential Taliban recruits with ‘bags of gold’, according to a new army field manual published yesterday,” The Australian reported in November.
Army commanders should also talk to insurgent leaders with “blood on their hands” in order to hasten the end of the conflict in Afghanistan.
The edicts, which are contained in rewritten counter-insurgency guidelines, will be taught to all new army officers.
They mark a strategic rethink after three years in which British and Nato forces have failed to defeat the Taliban. The manual is also a recognition that the Army’s previous doctrine for success against insurgents, which was based on the experience in Northern Ireland, is now out of date.
The new instructions came on the day that Gordon Brown went farther than before in setting out Britain’s exit strategy from Afghanistan. The Prime Minister stated explicitly last night that he wanted troops to begin handing over districts to Afghan authorities during next year – a general election year in Britain.
This video is from C-SPAN, broadcast Dec. 8, 2009.