Afghans claim Taliban received
airstrip cash By Abdul Maqsud
Afghan officials in Logar province,
60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital Kabul,
say they have evidence that the purported owners
of a piece of land at present used by North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces have no
legal claims to it.
A former governor of
the province also told IWPR that six individuals
received a payment from international forces in
2009, and some of the money found its way into
Reconstruction Team, PRT, a joint military and
civilian force based in the area, has a compound
in a desert area known as Abchakan, just south of
Logar's main town Pol-e Alam. International forces
are planning to build an airstrip at the location,
adding more buildings
Local officials say that six
men from the area laid claim to a
53-square-kilometer area of land when they
realized it was of interest to the PRT. In 2009,
the six individuals received a payment of US$2.6
million, according to Atiqullah Ludin, who was
provincial governor at the time. IWPR understands
that no further payments have been made since.
Ludin alleges that the men gave a fifth of
the money to the Taliban, who have a strong
presence in the province.
"In 2009, the
intelligence agency in Logar reported to me that
after the six men received $2.6 million in rent
for the first year from the Americans, they gave
the Taliban $500,000," Ludin said.
spokesman for NATO forces in Logar, who asked to
remain anonymous, told IWPR they were unable to
give a statement on these matters for the moment
because they were still unclear about ownership of
the land in question - whether it belonged to the
state or to local residents. The PRT in Logar is
run by the Czech military rather than the United
In April 2010, Abdul Hakim
Sulaimankhel, chairman of the provincial council,
wrote to governor Ludin saying, "The governor's
office should immediately arrest those who have
seized the Abchakan desert, and the money the six
individuals have received from the Americans
should be retrieved and deposited in the
spent a month trying to interview one of the men,
Awal Khan, a tribal elder from the Abchakan area,
and was eventually able to ask him a few questions
about the money. Awal Khan confirmed that he
received $2.6 million in rent for the first year,
but refused to say what he did with it.
"If I have accepted money, it is rent for
our property," he said. Telling the reporter to
"go away", he said, "I know what I am doing, and I
don't care about anyone else."
The head of
the provincial agriculture department, Mohammad
Humayun Omar, told IWPR there was no doubt the
Abchakan land was government property, and he was
aware that attempts had been made to appropriate
State-owned land is recorded by a
properties agency that comes under Afghanistan's
agriculture ministry. Ludin said the title deeds
held by the six were invalid and did not have his
approval. He said the document dated from before
his time, when his predecessor Abdullah Wardak was
"I have made no deal with the
people of Abchakan on this matter. Anything that
went on happened in Abdullah Wardak's time, and I
am completely unaware of it," he said. Wardak was
killed by a roadside bomb in 2008.
governor's own role has raised some questions.
When he was first informed that a rent payment had
been made in 2009, and was shown documentary proof
that the area in question belonged to the state,
he had four of the six men arrested. A few days
later, he ordered them to be set free. Local
police confirmed to IWPR that the men were
released on Ludin's orders.
asked him why he had done this, Ludin initially
said the order came from the prosecutor's office,
not him. Shown a copy of the release order for one
of the men bearing his own signature, he said, "I
was only doing my duty."
Sayed Rahim, head
of the provincial justice department then and now,
says the blame for letting the men get away rests
squarely with Ludin. Ludin, however, insists he
did nothing wrong, and that that allegations made
against him were part of a conspiracy. "I haven't
taken a bribe from anyone. I have only implemented
the law," he said.
About 200 families live
in the Abchakan area, and some received a share of
the 2009 rental payment. One farmer, Lotfullah,
36, told IWPR he was handed $18,000 four years ago
"because that was my share". Others got less -
between $5,000 and $7,000, he said. Lotfullah
said that he had never seen that much money in his
life, but that unfortunately, the windfall was
never to be repeated.
Logar's new governor, Mohammad Iqbal Azizi -
appointed at the end of September 2012 - for his
view on these matters, but was told he was not
prepared to go into controversial matters that
related to his predecessors.
Maqsud Azizi is an IWPR-trained reporter in
Afghanistan. This report was produced as part of
IWPR's Afghan Critical Mass Media Reporting in
Uruzgan and Nangarhar project.