The practice of paying off the “barbarians,” warlords and rival kingdoms, dates back to antiquity. The practice making its way into modern day times has now resulted in eight multinational corporations facing a lawsuit from the families of Americans killed and injured by al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In December, two lawsuits were filed on behalf of hundreds Americans, including members of more than 100 Gold Star families, against eight corporations as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Each stands separately accused of supporting a campaign of terrorism in Afghanistan that was led by al-Qaeda and carried out by the Taliban.
The lawsuits follow an extensive investigation by the Washington, D.C.-based law firms of Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, PPLC; Wilkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; and Sparacino PLLC.
The first case, which was filed as an Anti-Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. § 2331) lawsuit, was filed on behalf of 385 Americans, including dozens of veterans as well as members of 127 Gold Star families. It is illegal under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act to provide material support to the Taliban, and in the past the United States government has warned defense contractors that protection payments are against the law, but according to the lawsuit, the practice has been ongoing for years.
The defendants being sued include certain parent companies and/or subsidiaries of Centerra Group, Environmental Chemical Corporation, G4S, DAI Global, Janus Global Operations, Black & Veatch Special Projects Corporation, the Louis Berger Group, and MTN Group. According to the complaint, these defense contractors have simply seen it is part of the cost of doing business in Afghanistan.
According to the filed complaint these corporate defendants were hired by the U.S. government to provide security while others were hired to provide telecommunications, logistics and other support services. All of these companies are alleged to have made payoffs to the terrorist groups.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act complaint alleges that eight large multinational corporations, most of which are American, regularly paid ‘protection payments’ to the Taliban (including the Haqqani Network), which were designed to boost the companies’ profits by redirecting violence away from their own business interests,” Ryan Sparacino, managing partner of one of the firms that filed the suit, told CNBC via a statement.
Paying the terrorists has been a universal policy according to Barnett Rubin, associate director of NYU’s Center on International Cooperation, who also formerly served as the senior adviser to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in the U.S. Department of State. He told NPR that paying insurgents is, “the only way to get the supplies through, so the choice is funding the insurgency or not supplying the troops.”
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
A second complaint was filed by 503 Americans, including dozens of veterans and members of 183 Gold Star families, against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the country’s alleged material support to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As alleged in this complaint, Iran had provided key material support that included weapons, funding and training. The report even alleges that Osama bin Laden referred to Iran as al-Qaeda’s “main artery.”
“While thousands of Americans were risking their lives to support and rebuild Afghanistan, a group of private corporations and Iran were fueling attacks against Americans by offering protection payments and other material support,” said Michael Gottlieb, a partner at Willkie, via a statement. “The lawsuits we have filed today allege that the defendants have aided and abetted terrorism in Afghanistan by providing the terrorists with critical funding, and in some cases coordination and intelligence.”
This complaint was filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which established the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation may be sued in the U.S. courts.