As Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's squad mates and a media chorus criticize his
views and brand him a "traitor," the irony that congressional
appropriations to the Pentagon are one of the biggest sources of funding
for the Taliban continues.
["Fox News wonders: Should the military execute Bowe Bergdahl?"]
In 2009 a US congressional committee revealed that a large part of the billions of dollars in transportation contracts put out to Afghan trucking companies was going toward "protection payments" to the Taliban for it agreeing to not attack convoys. That report, entitled "Warlord, Inc.," was released by the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts. The Committee gathered over 25,000 pages of documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses in Dubai, including contracting officers of the 484th Joint Movement Control Battalion and Afghan truck contractors.
Citing a November 2013 UN report, the UK Guardian reports that:
The congressional committee determined that for one
typical $2.2 billion contract studied in detail, up to 20 percent of US
Pentagon funds went toward protection payments for supply convoys, which
Afghan trucking contractors were either forced to pay to the Taliban
and other insurgent groups, or face attack. The report found that the
fundamental nature of the Afghan terrain outside of Kabul, mountainous,
hostile expanses over which Taliban control is complete and undisputed,
made it impossible to resupply the network of US bases in any other way
but paying Taliban units not to attack.
The report raised eyebrows for the sheer magnitude of this source of insurgent financing. With extortion payments potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, the income rivaled the well-known opium trade as a source of Taliban revenue.
"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."
"protection money," as Clinton called it, is used to buy weapons,
ammunition, explosives, and roadside bomb electronics which are then
turned against US soldiers.
So critical to the Taliban's operations is the protection money that a falling out between the US and the Pakistani government in 2012 caused consternation among Taliban commanders. Supply convoys must pass through Pakistan in order to reach their destinations. A Taliban commander told the AP:
"Stopping these supplies caused us real trouble...Earnings dropped down pretty badly. Therefore the rebellion was not as strong as we had planned."
A US officer is quoted in the congressional
committee report "Warlord Inc." saying:
The November 2013 UN report which asserts that the protection payments which sparked "Warlord Inc." have not stopped says:
"In 2014, Afghanistan will experience a significant spike in international spending to finance the large-scale logistical operations necessary for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan. As the Taliban continue to exercise partial control over the eastern and southern routes leading out of Afghanistan, it must be expected that the Taliban will be able to extort a portion of the money resulting from the drawdown from local subcontractors."