U.S. Continues to Fund Taliban IEDs, but Blames Wikileaks for Endangering Troops
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.
When HNT contractors self-reported to the military that they were being extorted by warlords for protection payments for safe passage and that these payments were "funding the insurgency," they were largely met with indifference and inaction." (Bold contained in report)
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.
Of the leak of classified documents by Wikileaks, an ABC News report entitled "WikiLeaks Data Seem to Show Pakistan Helped Attack American Troops" said:
"Perhaps the single most damming collection of data in a massive trove of secret documents from Afghanistan released by the website WikiLeaks is some 180 files that seem to show Pakistan's premiere intelligence service, the ISI, helping the Afghan insurgency attack American troops. The United States provides more than a billion dollars to Pakistan each year for help in fighting terrorism, but the papers seem to link the ISI with major Afghan insurgent commanders..."
This goes beyond what the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Vietnam Era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, revealed about the Vietnam War, which was largely a story of incompetence and knowledge within the high command that the war was futile and could not be won. The Pentagon Papers, as damning as they were, did not show active collaboration of supposed allies with the enemy.
The Pentagon has announced that it has launched a manhunt for the leaker of the Afghan documents. Reuters reports:
The Pentagon said on Monday it was launching a manhunt to find whoever leaked tens of thousands of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, one of the largest security breaches in US military history. U.S. defense officials said the person behind the release of some 91,000 classified documents appeared to have "secret" clearance and access to sensitive documents on the Afghan war.
Wikileaks burst upon the news scene earlier this year when it posted the classified video of an American Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in which two Reuters reporters were killed. The leaker of that video, Army Specialist Bradley Manning, says he believed it was important to show the true face of war. He is currently under arrest and being held in a U.S. military prison in Kuwait. His support network's website is at www.BradleyManning.org
The Tierney report says the reason the system of protection payments to insurgents in Afghanistan exists is that there is, in essence, no other way to insure the resupply of the network of 200 military bases in Afghanistan. A former Defense Department contracting officer said in the report:
"the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."
The roll call of the House vote yesterday to approve the administration's request for $34 billion more in war funding is HERE (a "yea" is in favor of more funds for the war.)
After the posting earlier this year of the 2007 Apache Helicopter attack video by Wikileaks, the Pentagon expressed that it was interested in the whereabouts of Wikileaks editor and founder Julian Assange. Soon after that, Assange abruptly canceled a speech before the National Press Club in New York. Daniel Ellsberg, who had been in contact with Assange, told MSBC's Dylan Ratigan that he feared for Assange's safety in light of the Obama administrations newly announced policy this year of keeping an assassination list of people it considers threats to the national security, including American citizens. Ellsberg said "I think Assange would do well to keep his whereabouts unknown." Assange has since resurfaced, but the identity and whereabouts of the "Afghan Pentagon Papers" leaker remains unknown.