According to Tom Coghlan, we’re all being played for suckers by those wily Afghans. NATO contracts out supply to several “European headquartered” but otherwise unnamed companies; security for the convoys that deliver the supplies is the responsibility of the companies that prefer not to be named. These companies take the path of least resistance…and quite possibly the only realistic path: they buy protection.
The going rate to send a truck into Afghanistan is $1000. Convoys number 40+ trucks, with some having 100 vehicles. It takes a lot of stuff to run a war; the main British base consumes a million liters of fuel per week. (The original article is British. I understand the metric system. It’s not my problem if you don’t.) And the civilian needs of Afghanistan must be met by truck as well. Them’s rich pickings for guys with RPG’s and Hi-Luxes. Coghlan suggests that the Taliban (see, I generally conform to American spelling… but our system of measurement is stupid and probably shouldn’t be recognized) run the racket of attacking the convoys and taking protection money not to attack the convoys. Money, money, money.
My guess is that the “Taliban” is no more active than any other group of villagers/tribesmen who have the aforementioned Hi-Lux, some AK’s and a couple of RPG’s. You’d do it too. As one security company owner explained, “Everyone is hungry, everyone needs to eat. They are attacking the convoys because they have no jobs. They easily take money not to attack.” Such behavior will obviously go right up the social ladder; the only people who won’t be implicated are the ones who can’t get in on the gig.
Since NATO isn’t bothering to protect its own supply lines, someone has to do it. Payoffs are probably the easiest and most effective way for the supply companies to get the job done. Though one Swiss based company (Supreme Global Solutions…they sound folksy, don’t they?) which may or may not have a supply contract “categorically” rejects any suggestion that they pay for safe transit. Moreover, they do not “permit” their subcontractors to do so either. And I’m sure that they have strict control over their Afghan/Pakistani subcontractors from a padded, leather armchair in Geneva or Zurich.
Sometimes payoffs aren’t enough. In a country where the occupying armies are intent (at least publicly) on destroying the nations only cash crop, the convoy pirate sector is a growth industry. But a new band of road pirates will have to make a few successful attacks before they’re considered a threat serious enough to buy off. Every successful jump from violent attacker to gainfully employed ignorer only tempts more Afghans to enter this business sector. Not to worry, though, because a sub-contractual solution has been devised. The security firms hired by the trucking companies contracted by the supply companies under the employ of NATO have taken to hiring “Taliban” (but possibly just tribal warlords) forces to escort the convoys.
Yes, you probably got all that right. Your government requires that you pay to invade/occupy a foreign nation and then you get to pay the “enemy” to deliver supplies to your troops (fathers, brothers, neighbors, coworkers) with all the necessities for killing said enemy. Of course the enemy probably uses the revenue stream from the protection racket to arm themselves, and they don’t need a million liters of fuel per week to operate a fleet of Toyotas. It seems to me that funding the enemy is not the smartest stratagem, but what do iknow? I’m just a hack who reads the news until my neck hurts from shaking my head in disbelief.
Maybe it would be easier to let the Afghans be tribal poppy farmers if that’s what they’re into. It can’t be significantly worse than this macabre circumlocution. Then again, I’m not a defense/supply/security contractor. But if this is the supreme global solution, I’ll hazard a guess that we’re in a shit ton of trouble.
UPDATE: According to the WaPo, things have gotten so bad that the US is looking into alternate supply routes including building a new rail line through Russia, Central Asia, and/or the Caucuses (the last one sounds extra safe). Apparently torching 50 oil tankers and stealing helicopter engines is too much for the DoD. What would an Afghan insurgent do with a gas turbine chopper engine? I don’t think it would fit in the engine compartment of a Hi-Lux, but how redneck sweet would that be if they pulled it off? Whoever gets the contract to run the new routes will still have to provide their own security, so we probably shouldn’t expect much to change except where it happens. And the whole story gets better still. The Taliban has started issuing receipts so that the driver can prove to his boss that he didn’t steal the truck…what etiquette.
I supposed this goes on other wars too. But I’d never heard of it. Thanks for tracking this, Lex.
It’s amazing how many problems get solved by simple economic opportunity, isn’t it?
I was thinking it seemed like such a natural evolution… a need created by an intrusion into the community is filled by a construct already in place in that community.