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Afghan guards face US probe for ‘faking’ attacks

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NEW YORK, American investigators believe that many private Afghan security companies are using U.S. money to bribe the Taliban and faking attacks to make their services more sought after, The New York Times reported Monday. n a dispatch, the newspaper said reports that Afghan mercenaries, who escort American and other NATO convoys through the badlands, bribe Taliban insurgents to let them pass were followed by events last month that suggested “all-out collusion” with the insurgents.

The Times said after two of the biggest private security companies Watan Risk Management and Compass Security were banned from escorting NATO convoys on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar, a convoy came under attack the same day the ban was imposed.

Within two weeks, it added, with more than 1,000 trucks sitting stalled on the highway, the Afghan government granted Watan and Compass permission to resume. Watan’s president, Rashid Popal, strongly denied any suggestion that his men either colluded with insurgents or orchestrated attacks to emphasize the need for their services, according to the dispatch.

“But the episode, and others like it, has raised the suspicions of investigators here and in Washington, who are trying to track the tens of millions in taxpayer dollars paid to private security companies to move supplies to American and other NATO bases,” it said.

Although the investigation is not complete, the US officials suspect that at least some of these security companies many of which have ties to top Afghan officials are using American money to bribe the Taliban.

The officials suspect that the security companies may also engage in fake fighting to increase the sense of risk on the roads, and that they may sometimes stage attacks against competitors, it said. “We’re funding both sides of the war,” an unnamed NATO official in Kabul was quoted as saying.

The official said he believed millions of dollars were making their way to the Taliban. “The investigation is complicated by, among other things, the fact that some of the private security companies are owned by relatives of President Hamid Karzai and other senior Afghan officials,” the dispatch said.

Popal, for instance, is a cousin of Karzai, and Western officials say that Watan Risk Management’s largest shareholder is Karzai’s brother Qayum. “People think the insurgency and the government are separate, and that is just not always the case,” another NATO official in Kabul said. “What we are finding is that they are often bound up together.”