ABC News' Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia_ABC) reports:
A military-led investigation has found that US taxpayer money from trucking contracts in Afghanistan has indirectly found its way into Taliban coffers, the Pentagon confirmed today.
An internal assessment by Task Force 2010, established to examine allegations of corruption in contracting, has found the problem to be even greater than previously reported. According to reports it determined that funds from a $2.16 billion trucking contract eventually found their way to the Taliban through a payment form a subcontractor to a corrupt local official, who then paid money and guns to the Taliban.
Col Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed the broad findings of the investigation, which was completed in May but has yet to be released to the public, but would not go into specifics. He was unable to confirm how much American money ended up in Taliban hands.
According to the Washington Post, which first reported details of the investigation, in one case millions of dollars were traced through a web of subcontractors and eventually into the bank account of an Afghan National Police commander. Investigators then found that money was in turn used to provide weapons, explosives, and cash to insurgents.
Details of the report sparked outrage on Capitol Hill. Rep John Tierney, D-MA and the Ranking Member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, called for immediate oversight hearings to investigate the matter.
“One year after Congress first demanded attention to these issues, we continue to hear from Pentagon officials that they are aggressively increasing oversight over these contracts and taxpayer money. But so far it has been all talk and no action,” Tierney said in a statement.
“It defeats all of our purposes to be funding the enemy in Afghanistan,” he added.
The US military has turned to private trucking contractors to transport almost everything it needs in Afghanistan, a landlocked country where the highways are plagued by militants and bandits. Such bribes, mostly by local subcontracting companies, are often paid to make sure the trucks aren’t attacked along the way.
Last year ABC News' Nick Schifrin spoke with two American trucking executives who detailed a sophisticated payment scheme under which companies with massive Pentagon contracts pay large bribes to insurgent groups, warlords, and even corrupt Afghan officials, police, and soldiers in order to win safe passage for their vehicles. The executives requested anonymity in order to reveal sensitive information.
Col Lapan said today that that even though the contract was renewed for six months in March, there is already an effort under way to fix this under a new contact in September.
“Central Command’s contracting command, the contracting command of Centcom, is working on a new Afghan trucking contract to ensure greater transparency into subcontractors and will include a code of ethics, as well as expanding a number of companies, and ensure vetting prior to those contracts being let. The target for this new contract is September,” he said.
“They continue to look for ways to continue our contracting techniques and practices in Afghanistan,” Lapan added.