Afghanistan shuts border to US materiel over customs spat

News & Insights
Jul 18, 2013

The Washington Post reports that Afghan authorities have prevented US and NATO military shipments from crossing the country’s borders and demanded that the US pay $70 million in fines for failing to submit customs forms.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction warned in a letter to Congress last month that Afghan ministries were seeking to collect nearly $1 billion in business taxes and fines from U.S. contractors — an effort that some American officials see as a massive shakedown in one of the world’s most corrupt countries. U.S. funds intended to rebuild Afghanistan, inspector general John. F. Sopko said in his June 28 letter to lawmakers, are increasingly being used to “pay the cost of doing business in Afghanistan.”

Afghan officials dispute the charge. They say that U.S. contractors and government officials have flouted Afghan tax and customs regulations, citing operating agreements drafted shortly after the 2001 invasion. Those agreements gave the U.S. government vast leverage and protections.

Such disagreements are not new, but the Afghan government seems particularly resolute about enforcing its will this time around, as the US needs these land routes open in order to carry out its military draw-down on schedule.