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28 Dec, 2019 01:25

US military contractors sued for funding terrorism in Afghanistan with ‘protection’ payments to Taliban

US military contractors sued for funding terrorism in Afghanistan with ‘protection’ payments to Taliban

Bribes paid by international military contractors in Afghanistan were used by the Taliban to fund attacks on companies that didn’t make the payments, according to a lawsuit filed by families of those injured or killed as a result.

“Large corporations that had lucrative businesses in Afghanistan” paid off the Taliban through a series of subcontractors, bribing the Afghan militants in order to save money on security, according to a lawsuit filed on Friday in federal court by the families of 143 US soldiers and contractors injured and killed during the longest war in American history. The 288-page civil suit alleges the Taliban then used the money to finance acts of terrorism against companies that didn’t bribe them, detailing the grisly circumstances that led to the deaths and injuries of the victims.

Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an Al-Qaida-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans.

An employee of the US Embassy in Kabul referred to the payments as “organized crime,” according to the suit, which seeks unspecified relief for their families under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of the funding for major projects like the Kajaki Dam and a portion of the Ring Road went into the pockets of Afghan militants between 2009 and 2017, the lawsuit alleges. Contractors used Pentagon cash to hire sub-contractors, who hired their own sub-contractors and so on, until some of the money – amounting to millions of dollars, if not more – ended up in the hands of the Taliban.

Some government estimates show the Taliban strength in 2019 greater than at any time over the past 18 years of war that claimed the lives of more than 38,000 Afghan civilians, 2,400 US soldiers, and over $2 trillion in taxpayer funds.

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Two defendants, DAI Global and Louis Berger Group, received approximately half the total contracts in Afghanistan distributed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2007 to 2009 – about $1 billion. DAI stands accused of paying off the Taliban from 2006 to 2012 while executing contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the areas they controlled.

“Standard practice in such circumstances was to pay protection money in order to discourage the Taliban from attacking their projects,” the suit claims. Louis Berger allegedly categorized the Taliban recipients of its payments as “moderate,” because they weren’t actively destroying the corporation’s work.

Other American contractors being sued are Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp., Centerra Group LLC, and Janus Global Operations LLC. British contractor G4S PLC and South African MTN Group are also on the list of defendants. None of the companies responded to requests for comment from the Wall Street Journal, the first outlet to report the lawsuit, except a Black & Veatch spokesman who claimed the contractor had followed US government instructions and was “proud” of its work in Afghanistan. 

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Multiple congressional investigations have confirmed that US companies were flooding local warlords and insurgents with millions of dollars in protection money at the height of the war. Even then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged in 2009 that such bribes were a major funding source for the Taliban. The following year, a congressional report called ‘Warlord, Inc.’ confirmed that Pentagon cash flowing through contractors was supporting a “protection racket,” buying safe passage of goods by bribing local officials (and likely Taliban members).

None of the corporations who paid the Taliban have been prosecuted, nor were any of the Pentagon officials who paid the contractors. A decade later, US troops remain in Afghanistan – even as documents published earlier this month (and dating from 2014) revealed that US officials knew that the war was doomed from the outset.

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