Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Safety in Afghanistan

I came across a news article today about security in Afghanistan. It contains a quote from John Dawkins. What he has to say about security on the road holds significant interest for this blog.

Congressman says US tax money pays Afghan Taliban for protection
The Associated Press, Arizona Daily Star, December 17, 2009
Congress is investigating allegations that U.S. tax dollars are being paid to warlords and the Taliban for security on supply routes used to truck food, water, fuel and ammunition to American troops in Afghanistan. [...]

The arrangement for moving supplies throughout Afghanistan, known as the Host Nation Trucking contract, began in May 2009. There are eight companies handling the work.

Before this umbrella contract was in place, there were far more contractors involved and less oversight, according to John Dawkins, chief executive officer of the Mesopotamia Group in Kabul, one of the current contractors. But he also said it's no secret that payments are made to ensure safe passage through dangerous patches. Without U.S. or NATO security to guard the convoys and the routes, which is a risky and time-intensive task, there's no other option.

"We have to pay certain security companies to get from one place to another place," Dawkins said. "And everybody's interconnected and there's huge money involved. If you don't pay for your security, you're on your own."
Dawkins also downplayed the notion that much of the money flows to the Taliban. "Most of the people are just bandits on the road," he said. "I think you'd have a really hard time defining exactly who the Taliban are.
I can't help but see things through the prism of what happened in 2003 in Iraq.