NATO Force in Afghanistan Admits That Taxpayer-Funded Defense Contracts Used to Sanction Enemy, Report Says

By Edwin Mora | June 6, 2011 | 4:01 AM EDT

( – Coalition forces in Afghanistan admit that U.S. taxpayer funds spent on Department of Defense (DOD) contracts are being used to sanction the enemy, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

They just do not know how much of the money is being funneled to “groups whose interests run counter to the mission of coalition partners,” such as the Taliban.

“From FY2005-FY2010, DOD obligated approximately $33.9 billion on contracts primarily in the Afghanistan theater, representing 16% of total DOD obligations for operations in that area,” noted the CRS. 

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which is commanded by U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, “has generally had little visibility into who the local national contractors and subcontractors are who work for DOD, including not knowing the extent to which money from government contracts is empowering bad actors or groups whose interests run counter to the mission of coalition partners,” the report added.

The CRS attributed those findings to an unclassified document from July 2010, in which ISAF admitted that “unfortunately” it “has little visibility of the contractors network, the flow of money, the linkage to maligned actors.”

“We have a difficult time tracing the money flow past the prime contractor [at the sub-contractor level],” ISAF noted in the document, adding, “Powerbrokers/money lords are heavily involved in contracting…and the rich get richer.”

The document further showed that over 95% of its logistic support and developmental projects are contracted and include fuel, food, transportation, base support services, construction, maintenance, aviation, training, and development.

In its report, the CRS noted that as of March 2011, there were 90,339 DOD contractor personnel in Afghanistan, compared with approximately 99,800 uniformed personnel.

That means that contractors made up 48% of DOD’s workforce in Afghanistan, according to CRS.

In September 2010, Petraeus directed the US and NATO forces to “[H]ire Afghans first, buy Afghan products, and build Afghan capacity,” CRS said.

Now, Afghans make up the majority of contractors in Afghanistan: “As of March 2011, of the approximately 90,000 contractors in Afghanistan, 20,000 were U.S. citizens, 24,000 were third-country nationals, and 46,000 were local nationals,” the CRS stated. 

The CRS report suggested that an “issue to consider is whether in certain circumstances awarding contracts to local nationals could empower bad actors, criminal gangs, or corrupt individuals. 

“In those instances, it may be preferable to award a contract to foreign companies,” it added.

According to the CRS report, “In an effort to address corruption, ISAF established the Combined Joint Interagency  Task Force (CJIATF) Shafafiyat (which means ‘transparency’ in Dari and Pashto) in August 2010 under the leadership of Brigadier General H.R. McMaster to address the issue of corruption” related to defense contracting in Afghanistan. 

There are “three specialized units” under the task force including “Task Force Spotlight (focused on private security companies), Task Force 2010 (focused on the risk of contracting funds going to hostile groups), and CJIATF Nexus (focused on the link between drug traffickers, insurgents, and corrupt powerbrokers),” CRS revealed.

In June 2010, a House investigative report found that a portion of the $2 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds spent on DoD private security contracts to guard U.S. military supplies could be making its way to the Taliban as “protection payments for safe passage.” 

The Government Accountability Office reported in October 2010 that the U.S. federal government fails to collect reliable information on taxpayer-funded contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.