This week the White House condemned the posting of politically embarrassing classified documents which could come to be known as the Afghan Pentagon Papers on the Internet, saying this "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security," on the same day that Congress approved the administration's requests for further war funding, significant amounts of which, it is now known, will wind up directly in the hands of Taliban insurgents. Seven months ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in testimony before Congress:
"You offload a ship in Karachi 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."
Last month a report from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John Tierney (D-MA,) concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents in "protection money" in order to avoid Taliban attack. The report confirms that knowledge of the practice is widespread and well-documented up the chain of command, due not least to private contractors themselves reporting to the military that massive extortion payments were being paid to insurgents through warlord intermediaries who control almost every stretch of key road and highway. The report states:
"HNT Contractors Warned the Department of Defense About Protection Payments for Safe Passage to No Avail....While military officials acknowledged receiving the warnings, these concerns were never appropriately addressed.
HNT is Host Nation Trucking, the recipients of the $2.16 billion contract last year which is a main focus of the report. The truck drivers and vehicles subcontracted to actually transport the supplies are almost exclusively Afghan.
The magnitude of the Department of Defense funds going to the insurgency, which inevitably pays for massive quantities of weapons, explosives, and fighters' salaries, may equal or exceed the amount gained by the Taliban from the opium trade. The report places the range taken in from truck convoy protection payments at between $100 million to $400 million per year. Taliban profits from the opium business are estimated at around $300 million per year.
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