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Soldiers’ Families Sue Companies That Allegedly Paid Taliban for Protection

January 4, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
FILE - In this Dec. 25, 2019, file photo, an Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Goble, at Dover Air Force Base, Del.. Goble, a U.S. Special Forces soldier who died in Afghanistan this week, was seizing a Taliban weapons cache when he was killed, the U.S. military said Friday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON – The families of 143 U.S. soldiers and government contractors sued a group of multinational corporations last week in Washington, D.C. accusing them of indirectly funding the Taliban insurgents who killed and injured their relatives.

In the complaint, filed in Washington, the plaintiff families claim the eight corporations paid the Taliban protection money while they worked on Afghanistan reconstruction projects.

The insurgents then used the money to obtain arms and attack American troops between 2009 and 2017, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The plaintiffs said the corporations were not concerned with the fate of the American soldiers because they had “lucrative businesses in post-9/11 Afghanistan, and they all paid the Taliban to refrain from attacking their business interests.”

The defendants include Centerra Group, Environmental Chemical Corporation, G4S, DAI Global, Janus Global Operations, Black & Veatch Special Projects Corporation, the Louis Berger Group and MTN Group.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act which authorizes civil remedies for U.S. citizens who are injured through acts of “international terrorism,” which the law defines as any violent, criminal act intended to influence government policy or intimidate a civilian population.

The companies could have sought U.S. military assistance to protect them but decided it was easier to pay the Taliban to maximize their profits, according to the lawsuit.

They “rationalized their payments to the Taliban by framing them as a necessary cost of business,” the lawsuit says.

The companies allegedly paid Taliban agents in cash by funneling money through a network of subcontractors and private security firms. Some Taliban “guards” were paid regular salaries up through 2014, the lawsuit states.

At the same time, the Taliban were strengthening their alliance with al-Qaeda as they plotted attacks against U.S. and allied forces, according to the lawsuit.

It adds, “Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an al-Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans.”

August Cabrera, the widow of U.S. Army LTC David E. Cabrera, said in a statement, “This case is about obtaining justice for my husband’s death and the lives of so many others who were killed and injured by the terrorists in Afghanistan.”

Her husband was a military social worker killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 29, 2011.

One of the law firms representing the plaintiffs is Washington-based Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick, which also filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of Gold Star families and veterans against the Iranian government.

The second lawsuit accuses Iran of supporting al-Qaeda and the Taliban with money, weapons and training.

Attorneys for the American plaintiffs in the lawsuits say their allegations are based on information from confidential witnesses, declassified intelligence, media reports, internal corporate documents and congressional hearings.

As far back as 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress that “protection money” paid by American contractors was “one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan paid more than $1 billion over 10 years to three of the top contractors, DAI Global, the Louis Berger Group Inc. and Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp., according to the lawsuit.

Contractors named as defendants have declined to comment directly on the lawsuit. However, a Black & Veatch spokesman gave a statement to CNN that said, “During our work in Afghanistan, we provided support to our client, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and followed the directives of the U.S. government agencies that we served. We are proud of our record in successfully completing a number of projects in Afghanistan that helped more than double the amount of reliable power available to the country’s hospitals, schools, businesses and homes under its contract with USAID.”

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