US Funds Going to Taliban
Transportation protection payoffs go to local warlords, insurgents
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2011 2:22 AM CDT
Updated Jul 25, 2011 5:29 AM CDT
In this Feb. 6, 2011 picture, a chicken walks between trucks parked at a terminal in Quetta, Pakistan loaded with supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
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(Newser) – Much of the $2.16 billion spent on transportation contracts in Afghanistan went to payoffs for local warlords, including the Taliban, says a new military-led investigation revealed by the Washington Post. US forces in Afghanistan need as many as 4,000 trucks per week to move food, fuel, and weapons across the county. With each truck required to pay up to $2,500 to warlords or insurgents for safe passage, the amount being funneled is huge—still, all eight of the trucking companies involved remain on contract with the Pentagon. The investigation found "credible evidence . . . of involvement in a criminal enterprise or support for the enemy" by four of the contractors, and "fraudulent paperwork" completed by six. This is "beyond our comprehension,” says Massachusetts Rep. John F. Tierney.

Unlike Iraq, where mostly US contractors are used, 53% of the 87,000 personnel involved in Afghanistan transportation are local residents, with 1,000 contracts signed to non-US subcontractors last year. The Afghan-First policy was designed to build local infrastructure and free up US resources for combat. But while cheaper, it also opened up potential for fraud, waste, and abuse, according to investigators. “These people should be fired and sent home,” says a senior defense official about military overseers. “The attitude is crazy: It's okay to pay the enemy because then we have better snacks" delivered by trucks.