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Friday, November 15, 2013

Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Funding Insurgents in Afghanistan

Friday, 15 November 2013 17:22
Written by  Raven Clabough
Data reveal that billions of American taxpayer dollars continue to fund questionable or openly corrupt contractors in Afghanistan. 

The findings underscore the inability of the American military to filter suspicious contractors from the thousands who work with the United States on a regular basis to build bases and transport supplies.

The New York Times reported that American investigators uncovered data surrounding the Zurmat Material Testing Laboratory, affiliated with the Zurmat Group, an Afghan company that “investigators say was paid to do work at an American-controlled facility in November 2012, despite having been blacklisted two months before by one part of the military for providing bomb-making materials to insurgents.”

This was brought to the attention of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction in a letter last week.

The New York Times wrote:
According to other documents and a review of internal Pentagon communications obtained by The Times, the United States Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan, requested in 2012 that Zurmat and its subsidiaries, along with more than 40 other companies and individuals believed to have ties to insurgents, be “debarred” by the Army. This would formally ban them from doing work for any part of the United States government.

At the time, officials estimated that those contractors had collectively been awarded more than $150 million in work for the American-led coalition over a 10-year period.

Pentagon officials have reportedly refused to issue the bans, however, because they assert that they cannot present evidence against the companies and individuals since much of it qualifies as “classified intelligence.” Without being able to show the accused the necessary documents, debarment allegedly violates their right to due process.

Zurmat had been blacklisted in April 2012 by the Commerce Department following accusations that the company aided the Haqqani insurgent faction in Afghanistan. Following that, the military’s Central Command banned Zurmat from working on contracts within its area of operations in September.

As noted by the New York Times, however, that order did not immediately translate into warnings to other companies that may have been subcontracting work to Zurmat or its subsidiaries. Those warnings would be issued only if Zurmat were to be formally debarred by the Defense Department.

Since Zurmat has not been formally debarred, its employees were permitted access to the main American-run prison in Afghanistan, the letter indicates. In fact, Zurmat was hired to perform safety tests on the construction work done by CLC Construction, a contractor that had not been informed of Central Command’s decision to bar the Zurmat Group.

“This lapse in security highlights the immediate need for a simple process to ensure that individuals and companies identified as supporters of the insurgency are prevented from accessing U.S.- and coalition-controlled facilities,” the inspector general wrote to Hagel.

Lawmakers are understandably angry at the Pentagon’s refusal to ban such contractors. “It’s like we’re subsidizing the people who are shooting at our soldiers,” declared Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Finish reading>>