Thursday, March 03, 2016

getting rich or dying trying in afghanistan...,


newyorker |   America’s war in Afghanistan, which is now in its fifteenth year, presents a mystery: how could so much money, power, and good will have achieved so little? Congress has appropriated almost eight hundred billion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan; a hundred and thirteen billion has gone to reconstruction, more than was spent on the Marshall Plan, in postwar Europe. General David Petraeus, a principal architect of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, encouraged the practice of pumping money into the economy of Afghanistan, where the per-capita G.D.P. at the time of the invasion was around a hundred and twenty dollars. He believed that money had helped buy peace during his command of American forces in Iraq. “Employ money as a weapons system,” Petraeus wrote in 2008. “Money can be ‘ammunition.’

The result was a war waged as much by for-profit companies as by the military. Political debate in Washington has focussed on the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan and the losses that they have sustained. To minimize casualties, the military outsourced any task that it could: maintenance, cooking and laundry, overland logistics, even security. Since 2007, there have regularly been more contractors than U.S. forces in Afghanistan; today, they outnumber them three to one.

One result has been forms of corruption so extreme that the military has, in some cases, funded its own enemy. When a House committee investigated the trucking system that supplied American forces, it found that the system had “fueled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others.” Its report concluded that “protection payments for safe passage are a significant potential source of funding for the Taliban.” The system risked “undermining the U.S. strategy for achieving its goals in Afghanistan.”

The system has also made a few individuals very rich. Hikmatullah Shadman, an Afghan trucking-company owner, earned more than a hundred and sixty million dollars while contracting for the United States military; for the past three years, he has been battling to save much of his fortune in a federal court in Washington, D.C. In United States of America v. Sum of $70,990,605, et al., the Justice Department has accused Hikmat, as he’s known, of bribing contractors and soldiers to award him contracts. Hikmat has maintained his innocence, even as eight soldiers have pleaded guilty in related criminal cases. Several members of the Special Forces who have not been accused of wrongdoing have defended him. In a deposition, Major Jerry (Rusty) Bradley, a veteran Special Forces officer, said, “The only way to right a wrong of this magnitude is to be willing to draw your sword and defend everything that you believe in.”