Over 100 Gold Star families have filed a lawsuit against multiple American defense contractors, claiming they made illegal protection payments to the Taliban that aided and abetted terrorism.
Gold Star families are families of military members who have died in the line of duty.
The lawsuit states that the Taliban approached international businesses operating in Afghanistan in 2005 and told them to pay up, or else.
“Defendants paid the Taliban to leave them alone,” the suit alleges. “The payments saved Defendants money: it was cheaper to buy off the Taliban than it would have been to invest in the security necessary to mitigate the terrorists’ threats.”
The federal Anti-Terrorism Act says that it’s illegal to provide material support to the Taliban.
“Defendants supported the Taliban for a simple reason: Defendants were all large Western companies with lucrative businesses in post-9/11 Afghanistan, and they all paid the Taliban to refrain from attacking their business interests,” the lawsuit explains. “Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an al-Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans.”
One of the plaintiffs, August Cabrera, lost her husband, Army Lt. Col. David Cabrera, to a car bomb in Afghanistan in 2011.
“This case is about obtaining justice for my husband’s death and the lives of so many others who were killed and injured by the terrorists in Afghanistan,” she said.
The lawsuit also accuses one company, the telecommunications firm MTN Group, of deactivating its cellular towers at night at the request of the Taliban.
Barnett Rubin, associate director of NYU’s Center on International Cooperation, said that paying insurgents is pretty universal among defense contractors. He said it’s “the only way to get the supplies through, so the choice is funding the insurgency or not supplying the troops.”
Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University, said that the main issue is the Pentagon’s reliance on contractors in war zones.
“In the old days, the U.S. military when at war was largely self-sufficient. Today, the U.S. military is heavily dependent on profit-making enterprises, which inevitably privilege the bottom line over other considerations. I don’t know whether the evidence will sustain the plaintiffs in this case, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised,” he said.