Afghanstan war: Convoy security deal to benefit Karzai's brother?
An Afghan private contractor in Kandahar, with close ties to Karzai's brother, is up for a contract to protect supply convoys for US troops in the Afghanistan war.
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Despite misgivings among some Western officials, the U.S.-led coalition has decided to work with Ahmed Wali Karzai instead of trying to sideline the Kandahar kingpin, who's been accused of profiting off the drug trade, pushing illegal real estate deals and taking a piece of the security company business.Skip to next paragraph
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US Congress looking closer
Kandahar security companies already are facing scrutiny from congressional investigators looking into whether U.S. money for the war is being used to prop up destabilizing militia leaders or pay Taliban insurgents for not attacking NATO supply convoys.
Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., who heads the House National Security Oversight Subcommittee, said that convoluted contracts and subcontracts make it difficult to determine who is getting money to protect NATO convoys.
"The subcommittee is investigating allegations of warlordism and extortion along the coalition supply chain in Afghanistan," Tierney said in a statement about Kandahar. "It is clear the U.S. Department of Defense lacks sufficient visibility into the operations of its trucking contractors and private security subcontractors."
Along with the drug trade, security contracts are one of the most profitable businesses in southern Afghanistan. The top security firms have close links to the country's top politicians. Cousins of President Karzai run Watan Risk Management, where Ruhullah built his power base.
In an interview last week at his Kandahar compound, Ruhullah said he got his start in security after the U.S. invasion in 2001, when he started providing protection for CNN and CBS crews covering the conflict.
"I am the one who laid the foundation for security firms in southern Afghanistan," Ruhullah said.
Since then, security specialists say Ruhullah established a powerful security network that now controls long stretches of the convoy supply routes in southern Afghanistan.
Afghan and American government officials said that Ahmed Wali Karzai personally lobbied U.S. policymakers and top Afghan officials to approve the deal.
Ruhullah and Karzai ties
The close ties between the Ahmed Wali Karzai and Ruhullah were evident one recent morning when McClatchy reporters went to discuss the issue with both men in back-to-back interviews.
After meeting Ruhullah at his dusty compound on the outskirts of Kandahar, McClatchy reporters drove to the city center to interview Ahmed Wali Karzai at his heavily fortified home. When the second interview was over, Ruhullah was waiting to meet Ahmed Wali Karzai.
Abdul Manan Farahi, head of the Interior Ministry's counterterrorism department that regulates private security companies, challenged the perception that the new company would become part of Ahmed Wali Karzai's political empire. He said the plan calls for a new leader to take control every six months and includes a diverse collection of security contractors from different tribes that consider Karzai a rival.
Some security contractors affected by the deal portrayed the consolidation as an offer they couldn't refuse.
"The main profits will go to a few people," said one Kandahar security contractor who asked that his identity be kept secret out of fear of retaliation from Ahmed Wali Karzai. "Anyone who has good relations with Ahmed Wali will get the good contracts."
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