Despite repeated warnings, US ‘subsidizing’ Afghan companies with ties to terrorism - report
American taxpayers have unwittingly paid more than $150 million to companies throughout the Middle East that are known to have helped finance terrorist attacks on US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, according to a new internal US government report.
At least 43 companies based in Afghanistan were found to have ties to terrorist networks according to findings by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the leading US oversight authority on reconstruction in Afghanistan. SIGAR’s report seems to suggest that the very groups being targeted by the US through counter-insurgency operations sometimes become the beneficiaries of the federal government through contracted work.
“It’s like the United states government is subsidizing the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, those groups that are trying to shoot and kill our soldiers,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a member of the Senate’s Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, told ABC News. Sheehan was among a group of senators who wrote a letter to the Army in 2012 “expressing concern about where US dollars were going.
Perhaps the most notable example is a road construction company partly owned by one of the leaders of the anti-American Haqqani network. US lawmakers designated the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization in September 2012 after the Islamist insurgent group was blamed for an attack on the US Embassy in Kabul that claimed 16 lives in 2011.
A classified military investigation reportedly found evidence that the company worked “in facilitation and operation of the Haqqani network” and, as a result, “approximately $1-2 million per month flow[s] to Haqqani network to finance its activities.”
A representative for the company told ABC News the construction company was not involved with the Haqqani network and suggested the military had mistaken it with another company.
Yet the Pentagon has refused to stop granting these companies contracts, saying that such an action would violate the companies’ right to due process. John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said he has encouraged the Department of Defense to cut ties only to be rebuffed.
“The reason they’ve given us is that it’s not fair to these contractors that the evidence that we’ve presented, and this is evidence collected by the United States government, is classified,” Sopko said. “That’s the absurdity of it. We can probably attack them via drone on Monday and we’ll send them a contract on Tuesday.”
An Army representative refused comment to media outlets, pointing reporters to a statement claiming the Army conducts an extensive vetting process and claims it takes allegations of terroristic activity very seriously.
“I am deeply troubled that the US military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters but that some in the US government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko wrote in a previous report to Congress as quoted by ABC. “I feel such a position is not only legally wrong, it is contrary to good public policy and contrary to our national security goals in Afghanistan.”
A similar SIGAR report from earlier this year blamed the funding issues on sloppy contracting regulations and a number of US officials who simply refused to believe the evidence they were presented with.
That report, published in April, identified a long and complicated process in which “millions of contracting dollars could be diverted to forces seeking to harm US military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan and derail the multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort.”