A lawsuit filed Friday claims that US and international contractors paid the Taliban protection money to complete projects in Afghanistan—and says that money was used to kill Americans, the Wall Street Journal reports. The plaintiffs are family members of 143 US service members and contractors who were wounded or killed there between 2009 and 2017. The accusation itself is nothing new—congressional probes have documented the funneling of such protection money to insurgents—but the lawsuit aims for a direct impact. "This will change the way business is done in war zones," says August Cabrera, whose husband, Lt .Col. David Cabrera, died in a 2011 suicide car bomb in Afghanistan. "I believe that this can bring justice to those of us who have lost somebody."
The suit says 20% to 40% of funds for big construction projects went to warlords and insurgent groups, when more than 100,000 US troops were serving in Afghanistan. The plaintiffs name specific projects, like the Kajaki Dam and part of Afghanistan's Ring Road, as well as US-based companies including Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp., Centerra Group, and Janus Global Operations. Most of them aren't talking, but a Black & Veatch rep says the company "followed directives of the US government" and is "proud of our record in successfully completing projects in Afghanistan," per CNN. The money's original source? Over a 10-year period, the US Agency for International Development in Afghanistan reportedly gave more than $1 billion to top contractors there. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)