The U.S. military has moved to stem the flow of contract money to Afghan insurgents, awarding at least 20 companies new contracts worth about $1 billion for military supply transport and suspending seven current contractors it found lacking in “integrity and business ethics.”
The new contracts, which were finalized Monday and will take effect next month, aim to eliminate layers of brokers and middlemen who allegedly skimmed money, and to allow more transparency in a complex web of Afghan subcontractors paid to provide security for the supply truck convoys.
“I think we’ve finally got our arms around this thing,” said a senior military officer who was authorized to discuss the matter only on the condition of anonymity. The new contracts, the official said, were the result of a year’s worth of “intelligence work and asking the right questions. We’re now starting to take action.”
Congressional investigators determined last year that much of the transport and security money went to the Taliban and Afghan warlords as part of a protection racket to ensure the safe arrival of the convoys, conclusions that were confirmed this spring by military and intelligence inquiries.
House and Senate committees have said that the military has long been aware of the problem but has been reluctant to disrupt the system and risk interrupting a supply chain that provides virtually all fuel, food and weapons for U.S. troops across Afghanistan. Some lawmakers have criticized the length of time it has taken the military to act and wonder whether the new system will change much.
“I appreciate that the Department of Defense has taken steps to reform its Afghan trucking contracts, but I am concerned that they still lack sufficient visibility and accountability to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not getting into the hands of the enemy,” said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), whose House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee investigated the contract last year.