About a billion dollars worth of US aid diverted to Taliban Coffers

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Washington, Oct. 28 (ANI): About one billion dollars worth of U.S. aid has wound up in the hands of the Taliban and other insurgency groups, war analysts and government auditors say.

Sub-contractors have reportedly diverted the funds from programs meant to stabilize Afghanistan.

In fact, the auditors say, graft has gotten so bad that the U.S. government estimates that only about 10 percent of the aid budget actually reaches the people in Afghanistan who need it.

"Right now corruption is more important than the politics. I have been there (Afghanistan) seven times in the last year and the estimates I have been told are that 20 to 40 percent of the aid funding goes to corruption," Fox News quoted Michael Thibault, co-chairman of Congress' independent and bipartisan Wartime Commission on Contracting, as saying.

"The problem is the Afghan culture and the subcontracting practices of the companies that do business there," he added.

Investigations by the U.S. Senate and the inspector general of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have focused on how guard services that surround U.S. bases have been compromised by the Taliban. This has jeopardized the safety of American troops.

One company -- DAI of Bethesda, Maryland -- involved in rehabilitation, was forced to pay five million dollars in protection money to Taliban-connected groups.

But those familiar with the country say the scale of the corruption is far wider.

"Virtually every transaction in Afghanistan involves some degree of payoff," says Christine Fair of Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies.

She added: "Everyone is getting a piece of the money. If you want to get a clinic built, you have to make sure everyone in the village is paid off."

"We should be surprised not that convoys are attacked, but by how few get attacked," Fair said.

That is the same assessment that Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, gave to President Obama more than a year ago, according to Bob Woodward's book, Obama's Wars.

"All the contractors for development projects pay the Taliban for protection and use of the roads, so American and coalition dollars help finance the Taliban," Woodward wrote.

Fair explained that the practice has become so deeply ingrained in the economic life of the country that it is often a crucial element in events that appear not to be related to corruption.

Told of Fair's analysis, Thibault said, "I agree with her."

Thibauld noted, subcontractors usually build in somewhere between 20 and 40 percent markup for payoffs. And that money never shows up on the books of the major contractors.

"The current military philosophy of 'clear, hold, build and transfer,'" means there is little reason to change the system now," Fair said. (ANI)

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