Afghanistan Needs Aid, But What About All the Money Afghan Officials Have Stolen?
Including over a trillion America poured into the economy over two decades.
The new government of Afghanistan, run by the Muslim fanatics of the Taliban, has called on international donors to rescue the country from a “dire” situation. A report on this latest call for undeserved support is here: “UN: World Should Send Pledged Aid to Afghans to Avert Economic, Refugee Crisis,” Algemeiner, October 9, 2021:
The world should urgently provide promised aid to Afghanistan, the UN refugee agency said on Saturday, warning that a lack of resources is hampering efforts to avert an economic crisis that could push fresh flows of refugees to its neighbors and beyond.
But why is there a lack of resources, given that the Americans plowed more than a trillion dollars into the Afghan economy over two decades? What happed to all that money?
Here’s what happened: colossal theft by the Afghan leaders, our steadfast “friends and allies,” and by all their relatives, too; those grasping leaders made sure to divert hundreds of millions of dollars, and possibly billions, in aid money to their own, and relatives’ bank accounts abroad. And already they’ve been spending that money, taken from the aid that had been provided to the Afghan government by American taxpayers, without any embarrassment or worry.
A new report shows how one well-connected Afghan is enjoying our aid money; he’s Daoud Wardak, the son of Afghanistan’s former Defense Minister. His latest purchase is reported on here: “Son of Afghanistan’s Former Defense Minister Buys $20.9 Million Beverly Hills Mansion,” by James McClain, Dirt, October 7, 2021:
He already owns a $5.2 million Miami Beach condo at the prestigious St. Regis Bal Harbour resort, but Daoud Wardak apparently also wants a West Coast outpost. To that end, he’s heading for Beverly Hills — records reveal the semi-mysterious businessman, who is a son of former Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak, has bought a $20.9 million mansion on a prime Trousdale Estates street.
Built all-new this year and designed by local architecture firm Woods + Dangaran, the nearly 9,000-square-foot house was described in an off-market listing as a fusion of “modern meets midcentury.” The 0.58-acre property last sold in 2016 for $9.5 million to the Woodbridge Group, a now-defunct Ponzi scheme; Woodbridge demolished the original house on the lot, and the new structure was sold to Wardak on behalf of Woodbridge’s bankruptcy proceedings by Viewpoint Collection, a premier developer of high-end Los Angeles homes.
As for the current house, the strikingly angular structure packs five bedrooms and seven bathrooms into its glassy walls, which offer views of the Downtown L.A. skyline. Unvarnished woods and other natural materials define the interiors, which offer a muted palette of gray and cream tones. Contemporary minimalism appears to be a theme — there’s a central courtyard with a solitary olive tree, plus flat ceilings punctured only by recessed LED lights. Even the plantings in the drought-resistant yard are semi-wild and mildly overgrown in their own trendy manner. Out back, a rectangular pool sits just a few feet from the house.
Not much is publicly known about the various business interests or wealth origins of Wardak, an ethnic Pashtun refugee who was born in Afghanistan in 1977. But public corporation records show he’s the president of a Miami-based firm called AD Capital Group. Various reports have also noted that his older brother Hamed Wardak, a Georgetown University grad and onetime valedictorian, is a successful businessman who runs military transportation company NCL Holdings. Based in Virginia but operating primarily in Afghanistan, NCL has secured lucrative U.S. government contracts in exchange for protecting American supply routes in Afghanistan; those contracts were reportedly worth north of a whopping $360 million.
The Wardak paterfamilias is Abdul Rahim Wardak, who served as the Minister of Defense. In that position, he no doubt had a great many ways to amass a fortune, either by kickbacks from defense contractors, to ensure that their weaponry would be chosen for purchase, or by inflating the costs of weapons procured and pocketing the difference. His son Daoud Wardak has been buying American real estate to add to his portfolio. He already owns a $5.2 million Miami Beach condominium at the St. Regis Bal Harbour resort, but he apparently also wanted a West Coast outpost. To that end, he’s bought a $20.9 million mansion in Beverly Hills. If he has spent $27 million on real estate alone, how much more do you think he has in stocks, bonds, and cash? Surely tens of millions. Perhaps a total of $100 million? A tidy sum, which was not the fruit of hard work or business acumen, but the result of being the crooked son of a crooked father, who cheated American taxpayers by raising the costs of weaponry for the Afghan military.
And then there is Daoud’s brother Hamed Wardak, who has managed to make a fortune from his military transportation company that operates (or did, until the Taliban took over the country) in Afghanistan. Now how do you think Hamed Wardak’s company managed to get U.S. government contracts to protect supply routes, worth more than $360 million, if not through the machinations, and clout, and inside knowledge of rival bidders, possessed b his father, the Defense Minister of Afghanistan?
“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan remains really dire,” Babar Baloch, spokesperson for the UN High Commmissioner for Refugees, said in an interview in Islamabad.
“The focus has to be inside Afghanistan to avoid and avert another refugee crisis.”
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on Aug. 15, the country – already struggling with drought and severe poverty from decades of war – has seen its economy all but collapse.
Most of the nation’s international assistance has been cut off, though there are exceptions for humanitarian aid. Billions of dollars in central bank assets held abroad have also been frozen, which has put pressure on the banking system.
Those billions in assets of the Afghani central bank that are in accounts abroad should stay frozen, for if they were to be unfrozen, the Taliban would promptly take them over. And nothing should be done that would support the fanatical Muslims of the Taliban.
“Our worry is Afghan suffering will increase, the impact will be inside… but also it could be beyond Afghanistan… in terms of displacement not only to countries like Pakistan and Iran that have been generous hosts of refugees for decades, but beyond.”
The total needed for humanitarian operations in Afghanistan in the next few months is $600 million, Baloch said, and only 35% of that had been provided by international donors, despite promises at a recent conference in Geneva where donors pledged more than $1 billion in aid….
If the Americans can figure out a way to distribute aid directly to impoverished Afghans, bypassing the Taliban altogether, then some limited humanitarian aid could be given. But that’s it. And before making any commitment to provide such aid, Washington should try to claw back as much of the billions that were seized by corrupt Afghans, such as Abdul Rahim, Daoud, and Hamed Wardak. There ought to be legislation allowing the American government to seize the assets in this country of the Wardaks — and others like them — based on the argument that there is no possible explanation for their great wealth other than corruption, and that the money they stole came from the American government, which has a right to get as much of it back as possible. Washington can, for example, make an attempt at freezing the Wardaks’ bank accounts and seizing the Wardaks’ real estate, and try to persuade other Western countries to do likewise. And that extends to many other Afghans beside the Wardak family – literally, to thousands of Afghans who treated the American government as their own ATM machine. The self-exiled former President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, who skipped his country – what a patriot! — as soon as the Taliban approached Kabul, carried with him on the plane $169 million in cash. Where could he have gotten such sums, given that his official salary was only in the five figures? It’s American aid money, and we must do everything we can to get it back. And how did one of Ghani’s predecessors, the mediagenic Hamid Karzai – who comically claims a net worth of $20,000 — manage to amass $20 million on the same modest salary as Ghani? If we simply compile a list the 200 leading members of the Afghan government from 2001 to 2021, and then beside each name put both their government salaries and their current estimated net worth, the results will be both eye-opening and maddening. What will Biden, what will Congress, do to claw back what is, after all, American taxpayers’ money? Anything? Or, as I greatly fear, nothing?