It is believed that Admiral Dussault pushed too hard to cut off the diversion of U.S. funds to the Taliban. American officials retaliated against her because they routinely pay protection money to Taliban commanders to ensure that the perilous NATO supply lines remain open. They could not permit Admiral Dussault to upset these fragile arrangements. Admiral Dussault’s fault, if any, is that she apparently believed that cutting off funds to the Taliban and al-Qaeda was an actual American policy, which is not the case.
The story begins in 2009, when a series of new reports began to highlight the fact that NATO and U.S. taxpayer funds were being knowingly diverted to the Taliban as protection to ensure that NATO convoys remained unmolested during their long journeys through Pakistan and into Afghanistan. The first report was by Jean MacKenzie of GlobalPost (September 2, 2009) and was entitled “Are U.S. Taxpayers Funding the Taliban?” Then there was a Time Magazine piece by Aryn Baker and an article by this author in the Kabul Press on September 29, 2009. Finally there was a November 30, 2009, article by Aram Roston entitled: “How the U.S. Funds the Taliban.”
At some time during the Fall of 2009, the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John F. Tierney, had begun its own investigation. In the Summer of 2010, it completed and published its report entitled:
“Warlord, Inc. - Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan.”
It detailed the annual flow of approximately $400 million in U.S. tax dollars to the Taliban.
Alarmed that the U.S. public might not appreciate the fact that NATO was funding both sides in the Afghan war, General David Petraeus attempted to preempt the House report by announcing the formation of Task Force 2010. With great flourish it was established in June 2010 and a veteran contracting expert, Admiral Kathleen Dussault was named as its commander. She vowed to the press to that she would vigorously pursue her mandate.
Obama Administration officials were quick to praise her efforts. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah gave sworn testimony on July 28, 2010, to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. He emphasized that USAID was participating in Task Force 2010, and that it that was an “urgent task.” Less than two months later, Admiral Dussault was quietly removed from command and shipped out of Afghanistan with no explanation, and then Task Force 2010 began to disappear. There were no further comments from Rajiv Shah who, to his discredit, refused to criticize the removal of Admiral Dussault or the demise of a task that he had sworn was urgent.
This reporter came across this information and was not able to discover any news about this supposedly vital task force. He contacted NATO headquarters in Kabul with the following questions:
1. Does Task Force 2010 still exist?
2. Why was Admiral Dussault removed from command?
3. If the Task Force still exists, what has it been doing?
On April 6, 2011, this reporter received a response from Navy Lieutenant Bashon Mann and Lt.Col. John L. Dorrian (ISAF HQ Public Affairs, Kabul - Unclassified). It read as follows:
Good morning. TF2010 is most definitely still in existence and is performing dutifully. In concert with SHAFAFIYAT and TF Spotlight, TF2010 is providing investigation/intelligence, contracting and forensic auditing throughout USFOR-A. The TF-2010 relationship in support of CENTCOM Contracting Command has allowed for the proposed debarment and suspension of more than 20 companies, both U.S. and Afghan to include the heavily reported proposed debarment of the Watan Group.
While I cannot speak to the regular rotation cycles of General Officers here at ISAF, I can tell you that General Ross Ridge is now leading TF2010.* There have been several USFOR-A releases since the beginning of his tenure highlighting the proposed suspensions and debarments of companies investigated and audited by TF2010 agencies and personnel. I have provided you a link to one such release below as posted on the ISAF website.
Contrary to your comments rest assured TF2010 is performing an ongoing number of investigations, tracking the flow of contracting funds below the prime contracting level and providing adequate and informative assessments to USFOR-A leadership to allow for a more robust execution of COIN strategy.
Lt. Mann entire e-mail consisted of fluff and talking points, with only two pieces of actual information, which was that Task Force 2010’s investigations led to the proposed debarment of the “Watan Group” and led to the actual debarment of “Aey, Inc.” (which was the link provided by Lt. Mann). This reporter then began an effort to verify or refute those two pieces of information. It turns out that both NATO claims were false.
False NATO Assertion No. 1: AEY, Inc.
A NATO/ISAF press release dated March 28, 2011, attempts to take credit for the debarment of AEY, Inc. The e-mail to this reporter from ISAF’s public relations office lists the debarment as one of the accomplishments of TF2010. The actual facts are far different.
On September 11, 2009, the Kabul Press reported on AEY, Inc. after details were first released by C.J. Chivers of The New York Times. In 2007, the U.S. Army Sustainment Command awarded a massive contract worth almost $300 million to a shady Miami, Florida company called AEY, Inc. to supply the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with 52 types of ammunition, primarily 7.62 bullets for AK-47s. The U.S. Army removed from the contract all requirements for safety inspections of the ammunition, which is mandatory for all ammunition being delivered to American forces. As a result, AEY, Inc. was able to shop around in Eastern Europe for the cheapest ammunition it could find. It began to supply Afghan forces with old Chinese ammunition manufactured in the 1960s. Millions of rounds of this ammunition were found to be substandard and dangerous.
U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman, in his June 23, 2008 letter to Secretary of State Rice, described how the ammunition was being shipped from Albania and that in a secret meeting on November 19, 2007, the U.S. Ambassador to Albania John Withers and six of his deputies were all briefed on the illegal and unsafe ammunition. While AEY, Inc. and its officers were later indicted in the Southern District of Florida, the State Department refused to discipline any of its senior officials. John Withers remained the U.S. Ambassador in Albania until late last year. (See “American Envoy is Linked to Arms Deal Coverup” The New York Times, 6/24/08 by Eric Schmitt). Last year the owners of Aey, Inc. were convicted in U.S. District Court and part of the judgment included their debarment.
In summary, the investigation of AEY, Inc. was initiated and completed years before Task Force 2010 was even formed. It has nothing to do with the case. It should also be noted that the AEY, Inc. case did not involve any diversion of funds to the Taliban, therefore it would not have come under TF2010’s jurisdiction anyway.
False Assertion No. 2: The Watan Group
NATO points to the December 6, 2010, proposed debarment of the Watan Group as one of the accomplishments of TF2010. The actual facts are far different.
The Watan Group is a logistics/security company reported operated by two cousins of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. NATO, on December 6, 2010, announced that it was proposing to debar Watan from Western contracts. This proposal, which has yet to be finalized, merely suspended Watan from temporarily receiving new contracts. It reportedly remains under contract to a variety of sources including USAID.
Watan came to the attention of U.S. investigators in 2010 as a result of the House Subcommittee’s investigation. Its report prompted an investigation by the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigations Division, in coordination with the Army’s Procurement Fraud Branch. The final decision was made by Uldric L. Fiore, the Army’s SDO (Suspension and Debarment Official). Task Force 2010 had nothing to do with it.
In summary, the only positive accomplishments that NATO could point to in almost a year of efforts by TF2010, were the investigation of AEY, Inc. which began and was concluded years before TF2010 was even formed, and the Watan Group’s proposed debarment, the credit for which clearly belongs to others.
This information was relayed back to Lt. Col. Dorrian with a number of questions including why NATO was taking credit for the efforts of Congress and the Army CID. This reporter received back no response. NATO refused to comment on the allegation that Admiral Dussault had been fired for trying to do her job. Lt. Col. Dorrian also refused to comment on the allegation that NATO was resigned to the fact that it had to continue payoffs to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, because it needed to keep its supply lines open.
In conclusion, Task Force 2010 was created as a sham to placate members of Congress and to present the appearance that NATO was trying to cut off the flow of Western funds to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In reality NATO has concluded that it needs to fund both sides in this war with U.S. tax dollars. The casualties in this farce are the American people, the Afghan people, our troops in the field and Admiral Dussault. The victors are the Taliban, who continue to receive $400 million in U.S. taxpayer funds each year. Pentagon officials continue to pay their adversaries not to attack and then they have the audacity to testify before Congress that the number of attacks has dropped and that the Taliban is on the run.
Admiral Dussault’s secret firing was kept secret because General Petraeus knew he was in the wrong. Our strategy in Afghanistan remains sound, but not all our tactics or leaders.
*Note: Brigadier General Ross Ridge was hurriedly sent to Afghanistan in September 2010. This was not a regular rotation. He was pulled from his post as the Chief of the U.S. Army’s Field Artillery School at Fort Sill. A post he held since June 2009. He has no known expertise in auditing, money laundering and fraud investigations. He appears to be a loyal team player. The idea was to appoint someone who could not possibly succeed, so they would not even attempt to do so. Also any time a two star Admiral is replaced by a one-star General, it is an indication that the task or unit has been downgraded.
For further reading see: “U.S. Government Rarely Suspends or Debars Those Responsible for Billions of Tax Dollars Lost to Fraud, Waste and Abuse in War Zones” February 28, 2011, by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). See also the Commission on Wartime Contracting for Iraq and Afghanistan’s February 24, 2011, report, especially Recommendation 23. The Congressional Commission, frustrated over the lack of debarments and suspensions, and apparently unable to obtain honest answers, now wants the military to provide “written rationales” for each instance in which corrupt contractors are not suspended or debarred. That is how bad the situation has become.