The Times: NATO Pays Millions Of Pounds To Taleban *

The Times
12.12.2008
Tom Coghlan

Taleban tax: allied supply convoys pay their enemies for safe passage

The West is indirectly funding the insurgency in Afghanistan thanks to a system of payoffs to Taleban commanders who charge protection money to allow convoys of military supplies to reach Nato bases in the south of the country.

the business of moving supplies from the Pakistani port of Karachi to British, US and other military contingents in the country is largely subcontracted to local trucking companies.

The Times has learnt that it is in the outsourcing of convoys that payoffs amounting to millions of pounds, including money from British taxpayers, are given to the Taleban.

Lieutenant-Commander James Gater, a spokesman for Nato forces in Afghanistan, said that the transport of Nato supplies was contracted to commercial firms and how they got them into the country was their business.

“I can confirm that we use two European-headquartered companies to supply food and fuel, though for contractual reasons it is not prudent for us to name them. They provide their own security as part of that contract. Such companies are free to subcontract to whomsoever they wish.”

The controversial payments were confirmed by several fuel importers, trucking and security company owners. None wanted to be identified because of the risk to their business and their lives. “We estimate that approximately 25 per cent of the money we pay for security to get the fuel in goes into the pockets of the Taleban,” said one fuel importer.

Another boss, whose company is subcontracted to supply to Western military bases, said that as much as a quarter of the value of a lorry’s cargo went in paying Taleban commanders.

The scale of the supplies needed to keep the Nato military operation going is vast. The main British base at Camp Bastion in Helmand province alone requires more than a million litres of diesel and aviation fuel a week. There are more than 70,000 foreign soldiers in the country for whom food and equipment must be imported, mostly by road. The US is planning to send at least 20,000 more troops into Afghanistan next year.

On June 24 a 50-truck convoy of supplies was destroyed. Seven drivers were beheaded by the roadside. The situation now was so extreme that a rival company, working south of the city of Ghazni, had Taleban fighters to escort their convoys.

A transport company owner who runs convoys south on the notoriously dangerous Kabul to Kandahar highway said: “We pay taxes to both thieves and the Taleban to get our trucks through Ghazni province and there are several ways of paying. This goes to a very high level in the Afghan Government.

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