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Friday, August 21, 2009

Dr. Paul Williams on the Afghan Elections

Billions Missing!!!
What, Barack, Worry?
By Dr. Paul Williams
The Last Crusade

August 20 is election day in Afghanistan.

The Obama Administration has deployed 21,000 U.S. troops to safeguard the country for the momentous event, and an additional 4,000 military personnel to train Afghan security forces to squelch any problems at the polling places. In addition to the troops, Jr. Obama has provided the Afghan government with an additional $10 billion in non-military aid. Afghan President Hamid Karzai now relies on US taxpayers to provide 90% of the country’s budget. Most of this money goes into the pockets of corrupt government officials and unscrupulous contractors. For every $100 shelled out by the Obama Administration, less than $20 is spent for the designated project. The remaining $80 gets lost in the shuffle.

Of the $15 billion which the Karzai Administration has received in foreign aid, $5 billion has vanished into thin air. But no Capitol Hill official has expressed concern – - let alone launch an investigation. Afghanistan ranks fifth in Transparency International’s list of corrupt countries. The only countries with less transparency and more corruption are Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar, and Somalia. Jean Mazurelle, the director of the World Bank in Kabul, recently said: “In Afghanistan, the wastage of aid is sky-high. There is real looting going on. It’s a scandal. In 30 years of my career, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

When the inspectors general of the Pentagon and State Department investigated the U.S. funded program to train the Afghan police in 2006, they found the number of men trained (about 30,000) to be less than half the number reported by the administration (70,000). The training, which lasted less than eight weeks, at most, consisted of classroom instruction with no in-the-field tactical/weapons training. Only about half the equipment assigned to the police — including thousands of trucks — could be accounted for, and the men trained were then deemed “incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work.”

Dyn Corp, the American firm that won the no-bid contract to train the police, has received more than $1.6 billion from American taxpayers. Similarly, the Lewis Berger Group has received billions to build roads, dams, schools, and clinics throughout Afghanistan. With weeks of its construction, inspectors found that one of the Group’s clinics was falling apart. Much of the ceiling was falling down; the plumbing leaked; and the place reeked of raw sewage. Another of Berger Group’s multi-million dollar clinics was constructed on a remote spot within the sparsely populated province of Badakhshan.

To make matters worse, the spot is subject to violent earthquakes. USAID contracted the Louis Berger Group to construct a short stretch of road between Kabul center and the international airport. The Louis Berger Group then sub-contracted the project to the Afghan Reconstruction Company, and the road was constructed at a cost of over $2.4 million per kilometer, at least four times the average cost of road construction in Afghanistan. Despite these reports, the same contractors continue to receive billions from the Obama Administration. Rarely has corruption and incompetence been so richly rewarded.

The single greatest beneficiary of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan remains KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary. KBR has received nearly $32 billion from Uncle Sam since 2001. In May, April Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, testified that KBR was linked to “the vast majority” of war-zone fraud cases and a majority of the $13 billion in “questioned” or “unsupported” costs. According to Agency, it sent the inspector general “a total of 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other violations since 2004.”

According to the Associated Press, “billions of dollars” of the total paid to KBR “ended up wasted due to poorly defined work orders, inadequate oversight and contractor inefficiencies.” Contractors are getting rich and fat in Kabul – - and thanks to the $10 billion increase in reconstruction funding, they will become much richer and fatter under the Obama Administration. What’s worse, a full 40% of reconstruction funds, according to Fetrat Zerak of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, has been shelled out to the Taliban for protection.

The Taliban are not alone in profiting from the largesse of American taxpayers. Another beneficiary is Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai’s brother, who allegedly controls the largest syndicate in a country which supplies 93% of the world’s heroin-grade opium. The widespread corruption throughout Afghanistan is even acknowledged by President Karzai,, who is running for re-election in August. “All the politicians in this country have acquired everything — money, lots of money,” President Karzai said in a recent speech. “God knows, it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen.” In the streets of Kabul, tales of corruption are as easy to find as kebab stands.

Everything is up for sale, including public offices, military ranks, and access to government services. It takes $25,000 to settle a lawsuit, $6,000 to bribe a law enforcement officer, $8,000 to get out of jail, and $100,000 to secure a job as a provincial police chief — a bargain since police chiefs continue to connect more bribes than other public officials.


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