More than 100 Gold Star families have sued several American defense contractors for allegedly paying protection money to the Taliban while building projects in Afghanistan. The payments, the lawsuit argues, “aided and abetted terrorism” against Americans by enabling the Taliban to continue to fight — and kill U.S. troops.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the families of 143 U.S. troops and contract workers killed or wounded in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2017. They were “attacked by a Taliban-led terrorist insurgency that Defendants helped finance,” the suit states.
American companies were collecting U.S. taxpayer money for lucrative rebuilding projects and also paying millions of dollars in protection money to Taliban warloads — while 100,000 American troops were fighting the Taliban there, congressional investigations have documented.
“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 money was a major source of funding for the Taliban in 2009. The suit alleges that as much as 40% of the funds for major projects was paid to insurgents. It’s illegal under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act to provide material support to the Taliban, yet none of the companies has been criminally prosecuted, reports NPR.
One of the plaintiffs lost her husband, Lt. Col. David Cabrera, to a car bomb in Afghanistan in 2011. His widow, August Cabrera, told The Wall Street Journal that she hopes “this will change the way business is done in war zones. I believe that this can bring justice to those of us who have lost somebody.”
The companies in the suit include several top contractors working for the U.S. government. Two of the companies collected some $1 billion in funds in just two years from the United States Agency for International Development, according to the suit.
Few of the companies named in the suit have commented on the case. A representative for Black & Veatch Special Projects Corp. told The Wall Street Journal that his company had followed the directives of U.S. government agencies, and was proud of its projects in Afghanistan.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.