21st Century Wire says…
It’s well known about how the drug trade in Afghanistan is in part being fueled by NATO’s military presence in that country. That’s not the only lucrative sideline though – there is much more on offer for the American entrepreneur…
Back in 2010, 21WIRE reported on what appeared to be a growing trend of organized crime rackets in Afghanistan – all perpetrated by US military and contractor personnel partners in crime:
“According to a recent report from the BBC this week, some owners of oil tankers being used to supply fuel to NATO Forces in Afghanistan believe that some of the attacks on their convoys are suspicious. Yes, you heard that right. Contractors have been caught red-handed attacking their own vehicles whilst traveling from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
The report explains, “Evidence suggests that bombs have been planted in the tankers by the “NATO contractors” – individuals or companies who have been contracted by NATO to supply fuel and goods to forces in Afghanistan.”
“Dost Mohammad, an oil tanker owner from Nowshera district, stated that a NATO contractor had recently been caught trying to plant a bomb in an oil tanker. He added that the contractor had apparently sold off the fuel before staging a bombing of the vehicle. “Only 2,000 litres from the original 50,000 litres had been left in the tanker to cover up the crime,” he said.
That was then. Here’s the latest episode of The Sopranos in Kabul…
U.S. Army Specialist Stephanie Charboneau sat at the center of a complex trucking network in Forward Operating Base Fenty near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border that distributed daily tens of thousands of gallons of what troops called “liquid gold”: the refined petroleum that fueled the international coalition’s vehicles, planes, and generators.
A prominent sign in the base read: “The Army Won’t Go If The Fuel Don’t Flow.” But Charboneau, 31, a mother of two from Washington state, felt alienated after a supervisor’s harsh rebuke. Her work was a dreary routine of recording fuel deliveries in a computer and escorting trucks past a gate. But it was soon to take a dark turn into high-value crime.
She began an affair with a civilian, Jonathan Hightower, who worked for a Pentagon contractor that distributed fuel from Fenty, and one day in March 2010 he told her about “this thing going on” at other U.S. military bases around Afghanistan, she recalled in a recent telephone interview.
Troops were selling the U.S. military’s fuel to Afghan locals on the side, and pocketing the proceeds. When Hightower suggested they start doing the same, Charboneau said, she agreed.
In so doing, Charboneau contributed to thefts by U.S. military personnel of at least $15 million worth of fuel since the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. And eventually she became one of at least 115 enlisted personnel and military officers convicted since 2005 of committing theft, bribery, and contract-rigging crimes valued at $52 million during their deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a comprehensive tally of court records by the Center for Public Integrity.
Many of these crimes grew out of shortcomings in the military’s management of the deployments that experts say are still present: a heavy dependence on cash transactions, a hasty award process for high-value contracts, loose and harried oversight within the ranks, and a regional culture of corruption that proved seductive to the Americans troops transplanted there.
Charboneau, whose Facebook posts reveal a bright-eyed woman with a shoulder tattoo and a huge grin, snuggling with pets and celebrating the 2015 New Year with her children in Seattle Seahawks jerseys, now sits in Carswell federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, serving a seven-year sentence for her crime.
Additional crimes by military personnel are still under investigation, and some court records remain partly under seal. The magnitude of additional losses from fraud, waste, and abuse by contractors, civilians, and allied foreign troops in Afghanistan has never been tallied, but officials probing such crimes say the total is in the billions of dollars. And those who investigate and prosecute military wrongdoing say the convictions so far constitute a small portion of the crimes they think were committed by U.S. military personnel in the two countries.
Former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, who served as the principal watchdog for wrongdoing in Iraq from 2004 to 2013, said he suspected “the fraud … among U.S. military personnel and contractors was much higher” than what he and his colleagues were able to prosecute. John F. Sopko, his contemporary counterpart in Afghanistan, said his agency has probably uncovered less than half of the fraud committed by members of the military in Afghanistan.
(…) Retired Army Reserve Maj. Glenn MacDonald, editor-in-chief of the website MilitaryCorruption.com, said the volume and value of fraud committed by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq seem higher to him than what he recalled as a young soldier in Vietnam in the 1960s. “What you can make out of these [recent] wars is staggering. It’s an opportunity for anybody, even a noncommissioned officer, to become very rich overnight,” MacDonald said.
(…) Court filings in more than 100 cases reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity show that many of the military personnel who wound up being convicted had earlier received honors and awards, and were well-regarded by their uniformed colleagues. Charboneau, for instance, won two medals for her service in the Fenty operations office. She received the first just months before she began stealing fuel with Hightower and Weaver….
[‘OH, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!’]
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