US military cuts ties with firm in bribes claim

THE US military is cutting ties with an Afghan security firm run by relatives of President Hamid Karzai after it was accused of bribing government officials and Taliban commanders.

The move is part of US efforts to clean up a contracting process in Afghanistan that has been riddled with corruption and allowed US funds to pass to insurgents.

It follows a Congressional report in June that said the Watan Group bribed Afghan officials to get exclusive control over a key Nato supply route in southern Afghanistan and paid Taliban commanders to avoid attacks along the road.

Watan has been given a "proposed debarment status" – which prevents it from signing new contracts with the US government or renewing existing contracts –according to US military letters sent to the company's top officers.

According to the letters, the two confirmed the bribes in the Congressional report. If a full ban goes into effect, Watan will be the seventh Afghan company or individual to be blocked from future US contracts this year.