US government funds earmarked ostensibly to promote business in Afghanistan have landed in Taliban hands under a $2.16 billion transportation contract, The Washington Post has reported.
Citing the results of a year-long military-led investigation, the newspaper said US and Afghan efforts to address the problem have been slow, and all eight of the trucking firms involved remain on US payroll.
Moreover, the Pentagon extended the contract for six months last March, the report said.
The investigation found "documented, credible evidence ... of involvement in a criminal enterprise or support for the enemy" by four of the eight prime contractors, the paper noted.
According to The Post, investigators followed a $7.4 million payment to one of the eight companies, which in turn paid a subcontractor, which hired other subcontractors to supply trucks.
The trucking subcontractors then made deposits into an Afghan National Police commander?s account, already swollen with payments from other subcontractors, in exchange for guarantees of safe passage for the convoys, the report said.
Intelligence officials then traced $3.3 million, withdrawn in 27 transactions from the commander?s account, that was transferred to insurgents in the form of weapons, explosives and cash, the paper said.
"This goes beyond our comprehension," The Post quoted Representative John Tierney as saying.
Tierney, a Democrat, was chairman of a House oversight subcommittee that charged that the military was, in effect, supporting a vast protection racket that paid insurgents and corrupt middlemen to ensure safe passage of the truck convoys that move US military supplies across Afghanistan, the paper said.