COIN, or Counter Insurgency doctrine, is built around the premise that we can win the “hearts and minds” of the local population by showing them — via our actions — that we really are on their side and have their best interest at heart. Essential to COIN is the significant presence of civilians and non-combatants helping locals build civic institutions and infrastructure. The military clears and holds, their civilian counterparts build — schools, clinics, roads, bridges, an electric grid. The “build” phase employs locals and encourages those who might pick up a weapon and become an insurgent to instead become invested in their community, make some money and build stature in the process.
So when businesses that have contracts with the U.S. military sub out jobs to local entrepreneurs stiff the locals and don’t pay them for their labor, it is, to say the least, counterprocuctive to COIN, and when I became aware that this was going on last summer, I said that General Petraeus should staff an office with auditors and JAG officers who have prosecuted white-collar and economic crimes and go after the fuckers who steal the labor of Afghans.
No one has gone to jail, at least not yet, but there has been some follow-up on the part of the Pentagon. Two companies, so far, have been barred from further activities in Afghanistan after failing to pay local contractors they hired to perform the labor on Amercan-funded projects.
Nearly a year after two American construction companies abruptly shuttered their operations in Afghanistan and left the country allegedly owing their Afghan partners more than $2 million, the U.S. military announced Wednesday that it’s temporarily blacklisting the firms.
Wednesday’s action marked the first time that the U.S. military has suspended an American prime contractor in Afghanistan since Army Gen. David Petraeus assumed command of coalition forces in July, according to a U.S. government database that tracks such actions.
The multibillion-dollar international contracting business in Afghanistan is riddled with so much corruption that Petraeus issued special guidelines last fall that call on the U.S. military to better scrutinize where the money is going.
“With insufficient oversight, it is likely that some of those funds will unintentionally fuel corruption, finance insurgent organizations, strengthen criminal patronage networks, and undermine our efforts in Afghanistan,” Petraeus wrote at the time.
As part of that effort, the U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday that it’s temporarily barring Bennett-Fouch Associates and K5 Global from being considered for U.S. contracts.
The military alleges that Bennett-Fouch and K5 Global pocketed U.S. government money owed to their Afghan subcontractors and fled the country without paying them.
While the action will prevent the firms from bidding on contracts for up to 18 months while the investigation proceeds, it does nothing to help Afghan businessmen who say the companies owe them millions of dollars for work they did building American bases.
“This is meaningless,” said Jalaluddin Saeed, president of Associates in Development, an Afghan construction company that produced invoices showing that it’s owed more than $1.3 million by the U.S. firms. “They already ran away with the money after committing the crime.”
Bennett-Fouch touted itself in Afghanistan as an international construction company with 1,600 employees that was managed by disabled U.S. veterans.
K5 Global, which said it had secured more than $40 million in military contracts, vowed on its website to “become one of the U.S. government’s most trusted and reliable contractors.”
Afghan business records show that Bennett-Fouch and K5 Global are both owned by Sarah Lee, a 45-year-old U.S. businesswoman whose construction companies have worked for a few years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It keeps the businesses from bidding on contracts for at least eighteen months, but it does nothing for the Afghans who got screwed.
Seeing that the personnel who did the labor were justly compensated would buy a hell of a lot more than two million dollars of good will. Hell, it costs that much to keep just two pairs of boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Do you think that being owed money by those assholes might inspire militancy and cost us more than two million bucks in wounded or killed soldiers? hell, the Pentagon can find two meg in their couch cushions every day of the year.
Yet American law prohibits the US government from directly paying Afghans. That sounds to me like a line was slipped into a Defense Authorization Bill by a single member of one of the Armed Services committees somewhere along the line, for the express purpose of enriching cronies by guaranteeing that all monies have to pass through the hands of a third party.
And the fix would be simple. Just pass a one-line bill that, once signed into law, would allow the military to directly pay their Afghan partners instead of passing it through the hands of third party that may or may not meet their obligations to the local businessmen.
What brave Senator will sponsor the legislation? Claire McCaskill, I think this sounds like a job for you.