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Republicans Want to Give Taliban More Money

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And why wouldn't they? The war is making everyone rich (except us, who pay the bill.) Reported practically before the ballots in all the states had been counted:

WASHINGTON: Republican lawmakers who now control the US House of Representatives said on Thursday that they would try to prevent President Barack Obama from withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan as he planned...

Now, thanks to Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), who won his re-election handily, we know that at least 20% of Pentagon contract funds for overland transportation of military supplies goes to insurgents, as payment for not attacking the truck convoys. This means up to $400 million a year goes directly to financing the Taliban and its allies, which could include warlords on the U.S. payroll in other ways accustomed to playing both sides. To put that in context, the Taliban hierarchy's income from opium profits is estimated at about $300 million a year. This is not small leakage. If the Pentagon gave the Taliban anymore, it should be issued stock.

The name of the Tierney subcommittee's full report is "Warlord, Inc."

Afghan soldiers at the scene of a Taliban attack on a US supply truck. by
Ahmad Masood/REUTERS

Add to this the fact that a huge amount of reconstruction dollars never even reach the country, but are taken back by American contractors in the form of 40% profit margins and ex-patriot "consultant" salaries, and it's a "splendid little war," to quote President McKinley's Secretary of State.

A 2008 report by OXFAM bares the truth about what's really happening to reconstruction dollars going to Afghanistan, the loss of which is blamed, in the official line, on corrupt Karzai government cronies, which is only part of the truth. OXFAM's watershed "Aid Effectiveness in Afghanistan" tells us:

Afghanistan's biggest donor, USAID, allocates close to half of its funds to five large US contractors in the country and it is clear that substantial amounts of aid continue to be absorbed in corporate profits. According to the US based Centre for Public Integrity, the US government has awarded major contracts in Afghanistan, some worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to, inter alia, KBR, the Louis Berger Group, Chemonics International, Bearing Point and Dyncorp International. In some large contracts in Afghanistan there are up to five of layers international or national subcontractors, each of which usually takes between 10-20% profit on any given contract but in some cases as much as 50%.

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The peerless Ann Jones writes:

Afghans keep asking: "Where did the money go?" American taxpayers should be asking the same question. The official answer is that donor funds are lost to Afghan corruption. But shady Afghans, accustomed to two-bit bribes, are learning how big-bucks corruption really works from the masters of the world.

So it's no mystery why Republicans would want to keep financing the Taliban. No Taliban, no war. No war, no hand-over-fist money making for campaign contributors who'll take care of them once they are out of office in one way or the other. Son we are talking gigantic gobs of cushy jobs, stock options, likker, DC madams forever YEE HAW!!

And so far this has cost you, according to economist Joe Stiglitz, around $50,000 since 2001 for every typical American family. Did someone say war is a racket?

Could this story get any worse? Yes. Not only are we paying for insecurity and hatred due to the civilian casualties, night raids based on faulty information, and drone attacks which leave Afghans begging us to tell them why we are doing this to them, we could easily have the very opposite, real security, a people allied with us in the region who would hunt down Al Qaeda themselves, and a prospering Central Asian economy, for about one-tenth the price. When politicians intone gravely "we don't do nation-building" they may as well be saying "we don't do things the cheap, smart way that works for national security. No damned profit."

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Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortensen recently told Nick Kristof of the New York Times: "The conventional wisdom is that education and development are impossible in insecure parts of Afghanistan that the Taliban control. That view is wrong." Mortensen says that by consulting tribal elders and insuring most work is done by locals, meaningful development can progress.

Kristof went to Kabul to talk to men in a shanty town on the outskirts and reported:

What intrigues me is that the men don't seem particularly ideological...These men say that their preference would be to get regular jobs and live in peace. But there are no jobs, and now they are being told that they will be kicked out of their camp. They say the threatened expulsion is the result of a corrupt land deal by tycoons tied to the government of President Hamid Karzai. "If the government forces us out, then we'll have to go and join the Taliban and fight..."

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on the (more...)

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