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Pentagon worries about Taliban financing

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Pentagon worries about Taliban financing

Post  TBQ on Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:17 am

Submitted by "cheapside"

The White House and Congress are putting pressure on the U.S. Army to pay closer attention to whom it works with in Afghanistan, amid concerns that the Pentagon’s subcontractors in the country may be enriching local potentates and indirectly helping to finance the Taliban These considerations conflict with the army’s wish not to tamper with its functioning supply chain, as they conflict with the vested interests established during the presidency of George W Bush.

Hefty road tax. On June 22, the National Security and Foreign Aff airs Subcommittee of the House of Representatives published a detailed report on eight transport companies that are parties to a U.S.$ 2,16 billion contract with the Pentagon in Afghanistan. The report, entitled Warlord Inc, shows that road transport companies supplying the U.S. Army pay about US$1,500 in protection money per truck to warlords for the right to travel safely on the roads between Bagram, the epicentre of U.S. military logistics in Afghanistan, and U.S. bases all over the country.

While the investigations did not establish direct links between the local militias and the insurgents, Congress is concerned that Pentagon funds may be getting diverted to the Taliban. A week before the report came out, Rear Admiral Kathleen Dussault, a military contracting specialist, was dispatched to Kabul to lead Task Force 2010, a team of military and civil investigators charged with auditing the U.S. military’s sub-contractors and checking that none of them has financial or organisational links with the insurgency.

Battle for oil. The National Security and Foreign Aff airs Subcommittee is also probing U.S. Army subcontractor Red Star Enterprises, a company registered in Gibraltar with capital of £2000, which is suspected of having business links with the former regime of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Red Star, which denies these allegations, is in the fi nal weeks of a lucrative contract to supply to jet fuel and oil products to the U.S. Army’s base in Bagram, an hour north of Kabul (IOL 616, 618). With an eye on the contract’s August expiry date, several London oil traders are looking to team with U.S. groups to place a bid for the business, estimated to be worth U.S.$ 720 million.

However Red Star could yet end up getting a year long extension to its contract, due to the Pentagon’s overriding concern that the army keeps on receiving its supplies. Financed until recently by BNP Paribas’s Geneva office, Red Star works in Afghanistan with the group Azizi Hotak, which rents it storage facilities at Hairaton, on the border with Uzbekistan.

Struggle for Influence. The various probes into the Pentagon's subcontractors in Afghanistan also have a political dimension. A number of the companies in question have links with senior Republican figures that were formerly part of the Bush administration. For example the road haulage company NCL Holdings is headed by Hamed Wardak, the son of Afghanistan’s Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and former intern at the American Enterprise Institute where he rubbed shoulders with numerous neo-conservative thinkers who advised the Pentagon and the White House during the Bush years. Azizi Hotak is controlled by the Afghan businessman Mirwais Azizi, who is reportedly close to Zalmay Khalilzad, the Bush-appointed former U.S. ambassador to Kabul. Azizi and Khalilzad both come from Laghman province.
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Re: Pentagon worries about Taliban financing

Post  TBQ on Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:30 am

moreover...Watan Risk Management, which provides security for U.S. Army convoys in Afghanistan, is being criticised by U.S. Congress investigators and road haulage firms for working with a warlord.

The context. Of eight transport companies working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan (see also p 1), only one, Four Horsemen International, does not use the services of Watan Risk Management to ensure the safe passage of its vehicles between Kabul and Kandahar. Its convoys are regularly ambushed, according to the U.S. Congress report Warlord Inc., which was published last month. All of the other companies pay US$1,500 per lorry to Watan
Risk and they have no security problems on Afghanistan’s roads.

Watan was founded and is directed by two cousins of President Hamid Karzai (see opposite), and it employsfighters loyal to the warlord Ruhullah as vehicle escorts.

Organized system. All of Afghanistan's main highways are controlled by warlords who demand protection money. Watan Risk Management is the only private company that has capitalised on the situation. In addition to the Pentagon, Watan also works for Thales, which provides encryption services to NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan along with the private security company Geos. Watan claims its other clients include Western private security firms such as Control Risks and GardaWorld.

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Watan Risk Management
Amo Plaza, Karte Aryana, Salang Watt Kabul, Afghanistan
Founded in 2005

Ahmed Rateb Popal, Rashid Popal - Shareholders. Perfectly bilingual, the Popal brothers lived for several years in the United States where both served prison terms for heroin trafficking. They went on to form the conglomerate Watan, of which Watan Risk Management is a subsidiary. Cousins of President Hamid Karzai and fellow Pashtuns, the two men are not involved with the day-to-day running of Watan Risk, which is taken care of by former British Royal Marines and Special Forces officers. Employees include the former Afghanistan director of the British security fi rm Olive.

Commander Ruhullah - Partner. Nephew of Haji Seyid Jan Khakrezwai, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council and head of the region’s security forces, Commander Ruhullah has controlled the road between Kabul and Kandahar for the past year. He ensures that road transport companies working with Watan Risk Management are allowed to go about their business free of interference but makes life difficult for those who do not use Watan's services. Ruhullah took control of the highway from Abdul Khaliq, another warlord early in 2009. Ruhullah is a member of the Pashtun Popalzai tribe, as are the Popal brothers.
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