If propping up a corrupt government in Afghanistan wasn't enough shame for Canadians, we now learn that what we have helped to create in that country, is something resembling the Mafia underworld, far worse than anything we could have imagined.
The Borgata is a Mafia "family", with an established hierarchy, a body of foot soldiers and associates, all ensuring the smooth running of their operations.
The Godfather of the Afghan Borgata, is Hamid Karzai, the questionably elected President of Afghanistan. His underboss is his own brother, Ahmed Wali, who is engaged in a variety of criminal activities from drug running to featherbedding, and is thought to be one of the most powerful men in the country.
He is also the man given a 50 million dollar contract to provide security for Canada's signature project, the Dahla Dam, through his "business", the Watan Group.
... from the planning stages of the Dahla Dam project, Canadian officials were warned Watan is essentially the lucrative military wing of Ahmed Wali Karzai, or “AWK,” the president’s younger half-brother and the pre-eminent power broker in southern Afghanistan ... Those allegations were reinforced two weeks ago in the very first WikiLeaks cables, which exposed U.S. worries that AWK was “widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker” and was seeking profit from the Dahla Dam and other projects.The United States has since blacklisted the Watan Group, but not Canada. We will continue to pay for their "services", because according to Mitch Potter in the Star, we have to.
“The Canadians live in AWK’s compound, so how would they even extract themselves?” a security source familiar with the inner workings of the facilities said. “But the real question is what happens if the Canadians follow the American lead and fire Watan. In the past 18 months the Dahla Dam project hasn’t taken a single attack. No IEDs, no casualties. Yet it encompasses the entire battle space around Kandahar. My suspicion is that if they get rid of Watan the attacks will begin.”This is what is referred to as a Protection Racket, a typical Mafia scheme. Karzai's underboss, his own brother, will protect us if we continue to pay. Stop paying and we could meet with an unfortunate accident. An offer we can't refuse.
The Front: Watan Group
One of the front businesses for the Afghan Borgata, is the Watan Group. I visited their website and they describe themselves as:
... one of the largest and most successful group of companies in Afghanistan today. With a core focus on providing services to assist the development and long term sustainability of Afghanistan, Watan Group is involved in risk management, logistics, construction, oil & gas and steel and telecommunications.I was especially drawn to the "risk management" side of the business, a term I'm familiar with. It was concocted by the Bush Administration, who removed many regularity controls, like government inspections of food processing plants. Stephen Harper signed on to the "Risk Management" scheme at the Jelly Bean summit.
The best example of this came with Maple Leaf Foods and the listeriosis crisis. The Harper government all but eliminated inspections, allowing the companies to control themselves. But if things went south, as they did, it was up to that company to do it's own damage control, hence the Maple Leaf ads apologizing and promising to do better.
But I wondered what this meant for the Watan Group. What is their "risk management"?
Well, apparently this takes place when civilians are killed as a result of their services, protecting a convoy. They go to the families of the victims and offer them money as compensation.
This is known in the Mafia underworld as "blood money".
One of the lieutenants of the Afghan Borgata, goes by the name Commander Ruhullah, though he is better known as the "Butcher". He is the chief of Watan's security arm, who earned his nickname for his and his men's violent ways, which include targeting civilians.
The main reason for the U.S. cutting ties with Watan was because documents revealed that they had been paying off politicians, as well as the Taliban, so they could move freely.
A U.S. Congressional report released in June said Watan Risk Management gained control of the lucrative security business along the 318-mile highway by bribing Afghan officials and Taliban commanders. Companies that want to move goods on the road have to either pay Watan or fight its heavily armed guards, according to the report ... The company's guards also keep transport routes open for opium trafficking, another major source of cash for the insurgency.This is known as a "buy" or a "fix" to secure a "territory".
A Fine Mess You've Got us Into Mr. Harper
So we have paid out at least 50 million dollars to a "front" group for "protection". The same group that is allegedly engaged in the drug trade, extortion, loan sharking, war mongering and murder.
Does this mean we now call Harper a "Wiseguy"? A "made" man?
Yes, a fine mess you've gotten us into Mr. Harper. A fine mess indeed.
One more reason to Rethink Afghanistan.