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US Severs Ties With Afghan Firm Linked to Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (FILE).

The United States is severing ties to an Afghan security firm owned by relatives of President Hamid Karzai in a bid to stop the flow of U.S. money believed to be fueling corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

The U.S. military has notified the Watan Group, which is owned by two of Karzai's cousins, that it is barring all future contracts with the security company.

A U.S. Congressional report in June said the Watan Group had bribed Afghan officials and Taliban commanders to win a key NATO supply route in the south.

The report said the firm is run by a man known as Commander Ruhullah, who oversees about 600 armed guards and admits to bribing government officials.

Villagers along the supply route refer to Ruhullah as 'The Butcher.'

The U.S. military advised Watan Group of its debarment in a December 6 letter.

The Associated Press quotes the firm's managing director, Simon Hilliard, as saying the company had not violated any rules and that it takes the military's action seriously.

The United States has been working to reform its contracting process in Afghanistan, after claims that the system has been exploited by corrupt officials and helped bankroll the Taliban.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.