The Highway to ($)War

December 10, 2009 photog blogs

Zabul Province

It is not the fighting season, but more than anything the war of words thousands of miles away seem to dominate issues here. Sitting in a FOB (Forward Operating Base) in Southern Afghanistan we have been affected by weather for the last week, missions planned are cancelled due to weather. So far we have had everything from rain to snow and freezing winds blowing off the mountains, which means that air assets cannot fly and without air all missions are grounded.

If anything this has given me time to look behind some issues in this war, whilst Senior Administration figures continue their drive to put more troops into the battlefield here, figuring that more numbers will solve the war here, it is also a desperate gamble of a punter on a losing streak who believes that eventually luck will turn his way

Perhaps it is time to start looking at issues that they would like to ignore for on the ground the reality can be only to obvious.

It should be noted that the US Government via the Dept of Defense is funding the Taliban. Forget the Opium and Poppy trade that is small money compared to what Uncle Sam is indirectly giving the Taliban.

Food, water, toilet paper and anything else you care to think about has to be trucked from the main US Military Base in Bagram, just North of Kabul to the main battle arena of Kadahar and Helmend in the South. There exists one and only one road, Highway 1. A never ending procession of trucks bring supplies down this route every day.

As part of reconstructing the economy of Afghanistan it was decided to award the trucking contract to six local companies. All very well connected with the upper echelons of the Government here, via family or tribal connections. The value moving the logistics required to fight the war is estimated to be worth close to $2.2 billion.

These civil convoys by law are not allowed to arm themselves with anything more than a rifle such as an AK47. And the warlords who control vast stretches of these roads have no such morals, together with the Taliban they control the Highway to War.

Thus the local trucking companies who want to ensure their lucrative multi million dollar contracts are happy to pay between 10 and 20% to ensure that their convoys reach the battlefield. Taking the low percentage 10% of $2.2 billion dollars, means that the $220 million dollars is going indirectly from Uncle Sam to the Taliban to support their war efforts against the foreign troops here.

It is not a matter of the US Military turning a blind eye to the issue, they know it is happening and whilst it annoys them deeply, they are with like so many other issues in Afghanistan, powerless to end it let alone figure out how to stop it.

In the coming months, thousands more troops will be deployed, meaning that more trucks will be making the trip down the “Highway to War”. More trucks, more corruption, more money for the Taliban. Whilst we wait out the winter, the Taliban may not be as active fighting the war, but their war chest will be reaping the benefits of the surge, one truck at a time.