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Monday, August 6

Current state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, Shell Game Edition

The Taliban Bribery shell game

The most important item to emerge from last week's press coverage of U.S.-Pakistani relations is a July 31 report from the Associated Press titled Reopened Pakistan border means money for Taliban: Both NATO and the Taliban rely on convoys to fuel their operations, filed by Mirwais Khan and AP's veteran war journalist Sebastian Abbot.

Although the report is important on its own, the real stunner is in what it implies: that the U.S. military created a shell game to shut down inquiries into how much in bribes the Taliban will be receiving to allow safe passage of NATO supply convoys through the reopened Pakistan route.

This quote from near the end of the report sets up the story:
But the [Taliban] commanders said they were determined to get their cut as the flow of trucks resumes from Pakistan — a process that has been slowed by bureaucratic delays, disputes over compensation and concerns about security.
Here's how the sleight of hand went down:

> With great effort, the Pentagon and U.S. Department of State tamped down the uproar that exploded in late 2009 when American investigative reporters, working for various U.S. press outlets (notably The Nation and the Global Post), turned up that contractors and/or their subcontractors that handled security for NATO supply convoys were paying bribes outright to Taliban -- or paying bribes to warlords and crime syndicates that funneled kickbacks to Taliban -- to allow safe passage of NATO convoys.

> The exposés led to investigations by State and the Pentagon and hearings in Congress, and culminated in a new trucking contract. From the AP report:
The military instituted a new, roughly $1 billion trucking contract last September with a different set of companies that it claims has reduced the flow of money to insurgents by providing greater visibility of which subcontractors those firms hire, said Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, head of a U.S. anti-corruption task force in Afghanistan.
The catch was that the new contract was signed only about three months before Pakistan closed the NATO supply route in the country and kept the route closed for more than seven months.

> The rules governing the reopened route through Pakistan were spelled out in a Memorandum of Understanding between Pakistan and the United States that was signed on July 31 -- the day before the new ISI chief arrived in Washington for meetings with his CIA counterpart and top-level officials at Pentagon and State.

> One item in the MOU is that Pakistani police and the country's paramilitary Frontier Corps are to be responsible for guarding the convoys that travel through Pakistan -- a responsibility that Pakistan's government had always previously refused. (See the AP report for details on the new security arrangement.)

> On the strong theory that Pakistan's police and Frontier Corps will not risk death or serious injury to protect NATO supplies, the MOU effectively nulls the most important benefit of the new trucking contract. It makes Pakistani security forces, rather than private contractors, responsible for doling out any bribes -- bribes that the Taliban are clearly expecting to continue with the reopened Pakistani route.

> This shuffling around of the entities that will dole out bribes neatly stymies pesky investigative reporters, who won't be able to chat up Pakistani security forces about payoffs to the Taliban. And the arrangement will lead nosy Members of Congress to the blank wall of Pakistani military accounting practices, when they try to gauge how much in bribes is being funneled to the Taliban.

> In summary, the U.S. command has done a splendid job of shutting down not the Taliban in Afghanistan but those who want to know how much U.S. tax money is being diverted to the Taliban.

As to how important the bribes are to the Taliban -- to return to the AP report:
"Stopping these supplies caused us real trouble," said a Taliban commander who leads about 60 insurgents in eastern Ghazni province. "Earnings dropped down pretty badly. Therefore the rebellion was not as strong as we had planned."

The U.S. military estimated last year that $360 million in U.S. tax dollars ended up in the hands of the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both. More than half the losses flowed through a $2.1 billion contract to truck huge amounts of food, water and fuel to American troops across Afghanistan.

The military said only a small percentage of the $360 million was funneled to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. But even a small percentage would mean millions of dollars, and the militants, who rely on crude weaponry, require relatively little money to operate.

The military investigated one power broker who owned a private security company and was known to supply weapons to the Taliban. The power broker, who was not named, received payments from a trucking contractor doing business with the U.S. Over more than two years, the power broker funneled $8.5 million to the owners of an unlicensed money exchange service used by insurgents.

A congressional report in 2010 called "Warlord, Inc." [PDF] said trucking contractors pay tens of millions of dollars annually to local warlords across Afghanistan in exchange for guarding their supply convoys, some of which are suspected of paying off the Taliban.
Add to this the cost of replacing fuel and other supplies that have been destroyed or stolen by the Taliban and other militant organizations/crime syndicates operating in Pakistan.

Add to this, the NATO convoys have acted as mobile supply depots for Taliban who seize materiel from convoys to sell or otherwise use to support their operations.

Yet the Northern Distribution Network, despite its tortuously long and winding routes, goes a long way toward solving all these problems because the NDN is much safer from attack than the Pakistani route.

From that viewpoint the $100 million per month that the Pentagon claims it costs to ship supplies through the NDN is a bargain. I've seen estimates for use of the NDN that are much lower than the Pentagon claim. But even at the highest end of the estimates, any logistical operation that deprives the enemy of the wherewithal to mount attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan should have been used.

But then NATO commanders and American war planners know all this. They've always known. The really problematical aspect is that Pakistan's generals have always known, too.


This whole fighting talibans/al qaeda in afghanistan with the help of our non-nato ally pakistan is a scam from the word go. In effect we are funding the taliban via pakistan to kill our own men in uniform. In what way is different from the pogroms of mao, lenin and stalin who killed their own country men in hundreds of thousands. So was the war against drugs in afghanistan, when every body on both sides of the divide and their uncle got a cut to keep it a flourishing business. The northern route is safer even though it is a little expensive, but our leaders/army planners do not want to use that for whatever sweet reasons they may have..maybe it is the fear of russia knowing our logistics movement into afghanistan. But then is it worse than Pakistan knowing and benefitting from our logistics movement/planning???

I forgot to mention in my last post, there was a recent senate report on how drug money was used to finance the attack in Mumbai a few years ago who gives details of all the people involved in this racket, especially the british MI6 and their minions the arab emirates which has a DIFC(Dubai International Financial Center) where major international banks have offshore offices.
HSBC is the bank mentioned in the Senate Report and is responsible for laundering drug money and funding terrorists
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