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US Defense Officials Questioned About Afghan Trucking Contract


U.S. Defense Department officials say they take any allegation of corruption and wrongdoing seriously in response to a congressional report saying tens of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayers' money have been paid as extortion money to Afghan warlords, public officials and even the Taliban to make sure U.S. supply convoys get to their destinations.

The six-month investigation looked into the Department of Defense's $2.16 billion Afghan Host Nation Trucking contract that delivers 70 percent of the food, water, ammunition, weapons, and fuel used by American troops in Afghanistan.

The chairman of the subcommittee, John Tierney, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says American taxpayers are feeding what he called a protection racket in Afghanistan and that the military appears to have ignored complaints by contractors who said they were being extorted.

"This contract appears to have fueled warlordism, extortion, corruption, and maybe even funded the enemy," he said.

Tierney says the report, done by the staff of the majority Democrats on the subcommittee, shows the Department of Defense's systematic failure of management and oversight of contractors. He says contractors had realized they could not manage and oversee the security that would be needed to move millions of dollars of critical supplies along extremely dangerous routes.

Lieutenant General William Phillips acknowledged that the transport is dangerous and difficult, but says the trucking contract is vital to sustaining American troops in Afghanistan. He says the Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, is taking the matter seriously.

"The investigation is ongoing by CID. I've had discussions with them and I know they continue to pursue it very aggressively," said Phillips.

Pentagon official Gary Motsek says action will be taken, in the instances of corruption and wrongdoing that can be proven.

"We have several organizations charged with investigation and we will take action on those that can be legally documented with the appropriate level of forensic evidence," said Mostek.

The report, titled Warlord Inc, Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan, says contractors and their security providers reported widespread corruption by Afghan officials and that government extortion was frequent.

Brigadier General John Nicholson says the United States is also "looking at the linkages between criminality, the insurgency and the government."

He says special task forces have been established to look into the linkages, and that some Afghan government officials have been arrested and are being prosecuted as a result.

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