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Field Reporting – Afgan Irony

September 16th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Last night, after bowling three games at UzBowl, I was sitting in the shoe return area waiting for Peretz to come back from a phone call. I had on my blue MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) shirt, when a hefty, well dressed gentleman of Central Asian ethnicity sat down next to me. I heard him mutter MBL, huh?, and immediately he slapped me on the shoulder in a jovial manner and asked, So what state are you from?Pleasantly surprised to hear some English (the last few countries have, at times, been very linguistically isolating) I responded that I grew in New Jersey and now live in California. Turns out he went to high school in Philly, and is now the head of an Afghani construction company. Over the next few minutes of speedy conversation I assembled the following picture. The US military hires his firm as a primary contractor for reconstruction projects in the war torn regions of Afghanistan. He manages the projects, finding local sub-contractors to perform various, specific construction tasks like masonry, carpentry or excavation.As in the US, the sub-contractors are chosen in a bidding process; specific plans are laid out, costs are estimated in-detail for labor, materials, and transportation. From the primary cash flow his company receives from the US military, he sub-divides it to the subcontractors. Mixed in with the seemingly innocuous costs of each sub-contract is a non-trivial local business tax. Want to take a guess? Yup, thats right, its a payoff in cold hard cash to the Taliban, after all, we wouldnt want any unfortunate accidents to happen on your construction site. In typical bureaucratic style, the US military tracks where each dollar is spent and is fully aware of this cost of doing business.I guess I find it funny that the US military knowinglypays off the Taliban so that buildings can be rebuilt after US bombs destroyed them in an effort to eradicate the Taliban … ahhh … the sad irony of it all. Reporting from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, this is Tristan Ursell for Offsilkroadin.

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