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28 Jan, 2010 06:14

Afghan security agencies pay Taliban with coalition money?

While the world community is planning to spend a great deal of money to socially re-integrate militants in Afghanistan, critics say violent factions already benefit through providing transportation for coalition forces.

It is claimed that the money paid to local security firms is effectively a bribe – and that ultimately, it ends up in the hands of the Taliban.

Traveling by road in Afghanistan today is possibly more dangerous than it ever was when the Taliban was in power.

If a roadside bomb fails to kill you, there is the constant threat that a criminal gang could.

“It’s a given that there are roads that are unsafe in this country, without a doubt. We try to secure as best we can, but anyone can launch a small attack anywhere in this country,” says Ronald Green, Zabul forward operating base mayor.

Each month, international troops face the problem of how to transport millions of liters of fuel across Afghanistan.

Almost every one of their convoys has been attacked – and in some cases drivers taken hostage and ransoms sought.

There are parts of Afghanistan that are impassible, which poses not only a military threat but a real logistical nightmare to the international forces operating there.

So the foreigners have decided to use local private security companies. But the partnership is an uneasy one that very often leads to even more instability.

“Once you pay someone to provide a service to you, what they ultimately end up doing with that money we can’t always police, especially in a nation with so many remote pockets,” Ronald Green explains.

Critics say the cash paid to security agencies actually lines the pockets of the Taliban.

“I don’t want to name specific security companies, but these companies are paying everybody. They pay the government for their license, they pay insurgents, and enemies of Afghanistan,” says Fazel Sangcharaki, Afghan ex-presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s spokesman. “It encourages insurgents to keep going so they can get more money from convoys. President Karzai has complained about this, but he’s under pressure from foreign countries to keep the situation going.”

Independent Member of Parliament, Daoud Sultanzoy, says some of the so-called Taliban are also involved in this business of security.

“Everybody knows who to go to pay them off so they can provide security for a specific convoy in a specific region,” he says.

But Helal Wardak from Critical Logistics Solutions disputes the claims. He transports 125 million liters of fuel each month across southern Afghanistan for NATO.

He says it is good business sense for the foreign armies to use his services because then they do not need to risk their soldiers’ lives to transport fuel.

And his men know the roads, the landscape and the locals much better than the Americans ever will.

“A true Taliban or al-Qaeda or insurgent will never negotiate with you. He doesn’t need your money. He’d rather see the tanker burnt and see it shown on TV, or someone captured and shown on TV, as opposed to taking a couple of bucks from you and letting you pass,” Helal Wardak says.

There are estimates that as much as US$10 million of donor money is being smuggled out of Afghanistan every day – a sign, many say, of collusion.

If this is indeed true that the very resources brought in to fight the Taliban are in fact fuelling it, any prospect for peace and breaking the cycle remains dismally distant.