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Editorial: Contractor cash flow

Nov. 19, 2013 - 11:06AM   |  
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U.S. citizens, especially those with loved ones in uniform, would be red with anger if they learned their tax dollars are helping to support terrorists in Afghanistan who are out to kill their sons, daughters and spouses.

But it’s true, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Since September 2012, SIGAR has sought debarment of 43 foreign individuals and companies who have received $150 million in U.S. contracts for goods and services, even though they’ve been identified as supporters of the Taliban and other insurgents.

The head of SIGAR, John Sopko, is so concerned about troop safety that he recently detailed the matter in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Sopko highlighted the case of Zurmat Material Testing Laboratory, which is helping build a courthouse in Bagram even though the company had been deemed a threat to U.S. and coalition forces.

Sopko’s frustration with the U.S. Army’s refusal to take action against any of the identified 43 individuals and firms is evident in his letter to Hagel, especially its explanation that doing so may infringe on their due process rights. Sopko called that position “dubious” and added that courts have held that national security concerns trump due process rights.

He’s right. The brass should err on the side of protecting U.S. troops — and if there’s a good reason to continue dealing with those companies, the brass should share it with the troops.

Either way, Hagel must intervene for the safety of our service members and for U.S. interests in achieving sufficient security in Afghanistan to allow us to bring our troops home.

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