This is the firm conclusion of a committee report released from Congress this summer which should qualify as the most underplayed story of the year, both by the media and by politicians of both parties who should care. American dollars are buying arms, explosives, and paying for fighters which are killing brave American soldiers who are being betrayed by their leaders at all levels. The Tierney report “Warlord Inc.,” shows that up to 20% of all overland transportation contracts for military supply convoys goes to warlords, who are two-shades-Taliban, to not shoot up the convoys and leave them burning on the side of the road. And those contracts go into the many billions. Turns out once you get away from Forward Operating Bases, just a little ways into the sticks in Afghanistan, we are badly outnumbered. No military supply convoys, no war. So the Pentagon has been knowingly paying insurgents amounts comparable to what the Taliban makes from controlling opium to let the trucks through.
The amount estimated by the Tierney report is as much as $400 million per year total. For comparison purposes, the Taliban’s opium profits are estimated at $300 million per year.
That has paid for a lot of guns, ammunition, and roadside bombs. The Tierney report (full report here) quotes an American officer:
“the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don’t really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can’t; they need the Taliban’s cooperation.”
Welcome to the Graveyard.
It’s not that the Pentagon or the powers-that-be are unaware of the problem. Last June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress in congressional testimony:
“You offload a ship in Karachi [Pakistan] and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money.”
The real problem is, it can’t be fixed. The Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) interviewed dozens of witnesses in Dubai, consisting of military contracting officers and even many Afghan truck contractors who “self-reported,” i.e. complained to the US military that they were having to pay massive protection payments to insurgents. The committee gathered over 25,000 pages of documents. The findings were overwhelming and consistent: it’s anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 per truck in the hundred or two-hundred-truck convoys which are crisscrossing the hinterlands by the thousands at any given time, carrying MRAPs, Humvees, artillery shells, bottled water, fuel, oreo cookies, video games, treadmills, frozen turkeys, air conditioners, and any number of items required to keep a Splendid Little War afloat.
It can't be done by air. The weight and volume of freight is simply too many orders of magnitude greater than what is remotely possible to drop in by helicopter or even cargo aircraft, even if there were landing strips which could accommodate the latter, which there are not. The report concludes if there were any other way to move the supplies, they'd be doing it.
Mind you, every bit of this materiel generates a profit for someone somewhere, not small when you consider we are at a million dollars per ground soldier per year, and there are over 100,000 of them, not counting mercenaries. It is said that Congress is projecting dumping another $450 billion into this over the next few years, in addition to the $400 billion we already could not afford.
In the north, every contractor and subcontractor assigned to take U.S. supplies to Uruzgan exclusively uses Matiullah Khan’s security services. The report quotes the CEO of one of the contracting companies, which are all Afghan and hire Afghan drivers, because no American or foreign national would ever make it out of the backcountry alive:
“Matiullah has the road from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt completely under his control. No one can travel without Matiullah without facing consequences. There is no other way to get there. You have to either pay him, or fight him.”
Or take the case of Commander “Ruhullah” (likely a nom-de-guerre):
“Commander Ruhullah [who controls the key Highway 1 between Kabul and Kandahar to the south] is just one of dozens of warlords, strongmen, and commanders who have found a niche in providing security services to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Some are well-known tribal leaders or former mujahedeen who have been in the business of war for the past thirty years. Others, like Commander Ruhullah, are relative newcomers whose power and influence are directly derivative of their contracting and subcontracting work for the U.S. government. Both the old and new warlords’ interests are in fundamental conflict with a properly functioning government…”
Commander Ruhullah is a man of his word. One convoy which made the mistake of not paying him reported hostile contact with 15-20 insurgents. According to the report:
“[The convoy security commander] came to the conclusion that this ambush… was well planned by Ruhullah…minutes before the ambush the guards of [the security commander] could see that the guards of Ruhullah were busy on their phones and now know that they were talking with the insurgents.”
The kicker, the Tierney report says (as if we needed one for a story this blatantly treasonous and gruesome, I’d put Hillary up first for charges since she is already on-record before Congress) is that these warlords and Taliban, who have been “in the business of war for past thirty years,” are the very societal elements who will guarantee civil war once we are gone. Everything our troops are working to bring to this place, they are against: women’s rights, parliamentary government.
But who cares? It’s a Washington party! With billions in jet fuel contracts, Oreo contracts, Humvee contracts, spare parts contracts to go around! Halliburton and other “defense” contractor stocks have shot through the roof, and the campaign contributionsRand Paul, who sensibly says you cannot address a debt without addressing the single largest discretionary spending item in it. from “defense” contractors keep rolling in, making establishment GOP leaders confident that they can bury any Tea Party challenges to an ever-growing military budget, like
And Tierney has called what his committee found “the tip of the iceberg.” Winning a war is one thing. But this is not a war. This is a trillion dollar, cost-plus, no-bid contract orgy, drenched in the blood of the bravest for the benefit of the greediest. Nothing more.