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Afghanistan Contractor: "We Were Warlords Over There"

Del and Barbara Spiers were flat broke--in fact, they'd just filed bankruptcy--but that didn't stop them from getting millions of dollars in taxpayer money to guard roads in Afghanistan. To read the full story of how it happened, check out the expose Mother Jones reporter Dan Schulman just posted (and, while you're at it, the story of how contractors melted down Afghan gold to make cowboy spurs, and the revelation that the federal government's contracting watchdog for Afghanistan is starved for money and staff). Here's the highlights version:

[Del Spier] brokered a deal with Afghanistan's fledgling Ministry of Interior, which agreed to loan USPI hundreds of its troops--a coterie of ragtag militiamen under the command of a notorious warlord named General Din Mohammad Jurat. Accused of a range of criminal activity (including the murder of a man whose wife he wanted for his own), Jurat had been described to Human Rights Watch in 2003 as a "maniac" and "dangerous." In 2007, Afghanistan's then attorney general, Abdul Jabar Sabet, alleged that Jurat and his bodyguards attacked him in a botched kidnapping attempt. "His allegiance was to one entity and to one entity alone," says an ex-USPI employee who dealt with Jurat. "That was the US dollar."

[...]

Without question, [the contract] brought about change and improvement for the Spiers. In Kabul, they took up residence in a luxurious compound that some of their employees jokingly called the "marble palace." In their bedroom, an ex-employee adds, was a safe that sometimes contained upward of $1 million cash, used to bankroll USPI's operation.

[A] former USPI security coordinator told me, "I remember at one point seeing boxes of cash that they were bringing in. I thought, 'Wow, that's really fucking weird.'"

He continues, "We were our own little warlords over there. We did our own thing. I could have shot a guy in the head on the side of the road and nobody would have said a thing."

The upshot? Fraud is rampant in Afghanistan just as it has been in Iraq--and if you thought enforcement was lax in Iraq, you've seen nothing yet. "It's just a shame," one ex-contractor told us. "That money should have gone towards the development of Afghanistan rather than into people's pockets."

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