July 27th, 2010
07:56 PM ET

Truckers shaken down from both sides, reports show

Truckers moving vital supplies along the roads of war-torn Afghanistan have faced shakedowns by both the Taliban and Afghan authorities, with Taliban fighters charging up to $500 for safe passage, leaked U.S. military reports show.

A trucking company working in Afghanistan told American forces "that they were approached by Taliban personnel to talk about payment for the safe passage of convoys through their area," one 2007 report states. "The current price for passage is $500 US per truck from Kandahar to Herat, $50 US per truck from Kabul to Ghazni, $100 US per truck from Ghazni to Orgun-E, and $200-300 US per truck from Orgun-E to Wazi Kwah."

It said the negotiations were conducted in Quetta, the city in northwestern Pakistan where the Taliban is believed to have set up a kind of government-in-exile while it fights U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Local contractors coroborrated the information, "and the other companies state they are paying money for safe passage," the November 2007 report states.

The report was among the more than 75,000 documents released Sunday by the online whistleblower site WikiLeaks. It is just one of several reports documenting the problems faced by drivers across Afghanistan, where U.S. and allied troops have been battling the Taliban for nearly nine years.

The U.S. military outsources much of the security for truck convoys carrying food, water, equipment, fuel and ammunition to remote and dangerous areas in Afghanistan, and those contractors hire local Afghans who pay bribes for safe passage, according to a June report from a House oversight and government reform subcommittee. That report found portions of a $2.1 billion Pentagon contract to truck supplies to U.S. troops was being indirectly paid to Afghan insurgents and corrupt public officials as protection money.

Insurgents on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border have targeted supply convoys. And the WikiLeaks documents feature several other examples of truckers being shaken down by Afghan police and, in one case, by men hired by a local mayor.

In that instance, reported in June 2007, U.S. troops received complaints about a checkpoint in Gardez where the men manning it were demanding 450 Afghani, or about $10, to pass. The leader of the men told the U.S. troops that he had been given the authority from the city's mayor - and the deal wasn't going as well as he hoped.

"The leader of the group indicated that he 'wanted us to shut him down' because he had signed a contract with the mayor to [pay] him 80,000 a day. In return, the leader could run checkpoints on the routes to Kabul, Zormat, Khowst and Mirzaka. The leader indicated they were only making between 35,000-40,000 Afghanis per day from the checkpoints and are accumulating a debt to the mayor."

The provincial police chief told the Americans that he believed the checkpoint was illegal, the report states. "However, he was aware that the mayor had approved it, so the issue would have to be taken up with the mayor," the report states.

And in Zormat, after an Afghan truck driver complained that an Afghan National Police officer had demanded a bribe, two U.S. officers who checked out the report found several drivers who reported the same thing. They reported the issue to the local police chief and called him to the checkpoint.

While waiting, the American officer who filed the report "asked the seven patrolmen we detained to sit and relax while we sorted through a problem without ever mentioning why they were being detained. Three of the patrolmen responded by saying that they had only taken money from the truck drivers to buy fuel for their generator," the report stated.

All seven were arrested by the local police chief - but were later released "due to having no evidence," the Americans were told. When they asked the police chief what happened to the statements taken from the truck drivers, they were told they had been handed over to the head over the local jail. But the jailer said he never received them, according to the report.

CNN's Matt Smith and David DeSola contributed to this report.

soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.