Monday, December 27, 2010

US supports terrorism, fact or fiction? Pankisi Gorge

What proof do you have of the U.S. funding Chechen Fighters?

Unleash the dawgs!

Joni Simonishvili

As a reader wrote, "what proof do you have of the US funding Chechen fighters, this is what the American people need to know, if it can be written to their understanding, and if the word can get out to them.

What was the Chechnya war about?  Who was the good guy, who was the bad - Russia or Chechnya, and why?   Americans are confused about this and would not know who to 'root' for.  Then again, most could care less anyway since it's the other side of the world and whoever wins the war won't change their entertainment needs one way or another.... which is pretty much all they care about.

It is not what your right that is important but the timing, as that is the only thing that can make a real difference."


It takes a few volumes to cover what you ask but I will give it a go, you can google the Chechen war for the sake of brevity. My understanding of the story starts out with intentionally making the Pankisi Valley (gorge) of Georgia into a no-go area back in 2000-2001. This was a time when the gorge was surviving a base camp for Chechen fighters, little ever made it into the mainstream media as what was going on – as access was denied to foreign reporters, and the international media, including the Washington Post and others were eating up the official line – hook-line-and-sinker

To make a long story short, steps were taken to claim Pankisi was a lawless place, no-go zone and that Georgia needed help. The US State Department was engaged, such as Richard Boucher, a State Department Spokesperson, who came out in a daily press briefing discussing the Georgian border and the need to beef up the ability to control the situation.

The scars were still around my  around my wrists after being abducted and beaten several years ago, the price for going public with what I know about America's secret games in the strategically important Caucasus.  With a degree in the diplomacy he came here right after independence in 1991 to drive the tobacco exports, decided to stay there and soon became editor of an English language newspaper. He made good contact with the young generation of Georgians with education from the West who would later assume the leadership of the country, and used to have Mikhail Saakashvili over for dinner. This was before he became Minister of Justice  for President Eduard Shevardnadze. 

In some years because of close relations with power circuits in Tbilisi and with average people, I was able to gained insight into many of America's secret affairs. Even the International Crisis Group took notice of my work, and contracted me on a few occasions to carry out "due diligence" - to investigate a company or organization and find out if it is up to something it shouldn't have been. I have also been contacted to find out what has happened to some foreign citizens either killed or went missing in Georgia.

My trouble started when he wrote a report from Pankisi - a valley in northeast Georgia on the border with Chechnya, which was filled with thousands of refugees after the onset of the second Chechen war in 1999, and eventually became an important base for resistance against Russia, and the Russian even bomb the place several times.

It's since become clear that the Georgian authorities allowed the Chechens to use the Pankisi as base.  There is little doubt that the U.S. supported the rebels there, and that it later used the presence of mujaheddin there as justification to go in militarily, in so called mop up operations - but it was really a damage control operation after the terrible events of 9/11.

I first started suspecting when I went there in 2002. Everyone knew what was going on, and how money was there but no one could say for sure at the time where the money came from. Part of my work was to find out where the money came from, the money came from ACDI-VOCA, a rural credit association funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The money should have gone to investments in agriculture but it actually went right in the pocket of the Chechen rebel leaders along with representatives of Georgian intelligence services. One former CIA agent shared insight and assisted me in putting together the full story.  The same arrangement was used in Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and with USAID funded alternative livelihood projects, also under the same NGO, ACDI/VOCA and with some of the same staff that had worked in Georgia.

The Chechens were helped by visiting mujaheddin from the Middle East, and I am convinced that the United States brought them in, even provided them with fake Georgian passports for traveling to Turkey and elsewhere. One Chechen leader was even flying to the UK on a regular basis, and this was the most wanted Chechen fighter by Russian Special Services.

I met a group of Saudis, who had false passports and said they had 300 USD days to take travel by Pankisi and fight against the Russians. The the group of three all had newly issued Georgian passports.

Officially there were only refugees in Pankisi, but after the terrorist attacks 11 September 2001  the U.S. changed its strategy and defined it as a base for Al-Qaida.

One of the consequences was that President Bush could more easily get Congressional approval to go in militarily in Georgia, a strategically important country after it was chosen as the routes for oil and gas pipelines from Azerbaijan to Turkey, and this was done under the cover of the 64 million dollar train and equip program.

Already in early 2002 American military sent advisers to train Georgians to clean up the Pankisi gorge.  Now the opportunity was presented for  the U.S. to enter its trainers, something Russia protested strongly against. By the end of 2002, Georgian president Shevardnadze had declared the place cleared of terrorists.

It was the middle of this operation that Silverman visited the area, and working with a British freelance journalist named Roddy Scott, who told him that he had compromising material that would really lift the lid on what was happening in Pankisi.

Right after, Scott joined a Chechen unit of soldiers on their raids over the mountains to Ingushetia and was killed by Russian soldiers in an ambush. Three days after his death, I was stopped by security police in Azerbaijan and beaten up. There is no doubt in my mind that is there is a connection, and especially when the US Embassy in Baku refused to provide assistance to me in the hospital.

What has been written to support the pattern and proof of US funding Chechens is found in Georgian Credit Unions set up by ACDI/VOCA under a US food for Peace Program where US Agriculture Commodities are sold to provide funding for rural credit unions, and these credit unions were to make loans to worthwhile agriculture projects. These were looted and the proceeds used to support the Chechen fighters.

Much of the actionable intelligence at the time was provided to Roddy Scott by an American Freelance journalist living in Georgia, and that email likely got him killed. Before he set out for Georgia he had written me these words, "I personally think it is a great story, it's about the first time I have ever seen the possibility for someone to really lift the lid on everything, rather than the usual journo-grasping-at-straws-with-no-good-sources which seems to emanate from the region. And what really gives it the boost is that it is tied into US policy, which gives it the international rather than local/parochial flavor."

Roddy's correspondence was in response to having reviewed an unedited draft of an article, which was later published on Eurasianet (Internet site), which addressed regional geopolitical events and the larger repercussions of breaking news related to the war in Chechnya. Time is passing but there are still many questions left unanswered as to the unofficial political, economic and security networks in the region. It is especially interesting how events are portrayed in the United States and the Russian Federation in terms of the war on international "terrorism" and how a small enclave has such far-reaching geopolitical implications. There was also a nexus with Chechen fighters in the valleys (Kodori and Pankisi) and unofficial Georgian links to larger operational and financial support in Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Middle East.

Fast Forward, Afghanistan

After leaving here the person on the point for funding Pankisi, Rusty Shultz, was in soon in charge of another rural credit program, ended up working in Afghanistan with the same kind of mechanism. I am sure you will understand that he is just a small fish in all of this, and the real corruption goes to the top in USAID and other international organizations. Rusty was subsequently fired in Afghaistan for again allowing things to get out of control and for others having learned that the ARIES project was a model of the Georgian operations.

Here is the basic scheme of things: However, these are old notes and it would take a PhD to describe how all these programs have since development and transformed. Jeffrey Silverman wrote in one of his emails to a trusted source, "I collected this together, and it will be time before I can neatly package things in micro units to get you started. My main source is out of Kabul for the time being and it is hard to network from a distance.

Based on what I know, it might be best to start out with this person,  as who is center-stage to the investment fund (ARF), [different than ACDI/VOCA, check out Kavkhaz Center about two years back], my NGO article;  in the meantime I am still networking for specific NGO corruption stuff to get a good start with. However, I think this person can give you the oversight on things and I am networking with my media friends who are gunning for a good US government corruption scandal and cover-up.

The Russian Embassy might share the history of Pankisi and its nexus to terrorism – provided you tell them you are interested in Imram Akhmadov and what brothers may still be alive, that as it relates to the history of leakage of ACDI/VOCA funds via rural credit unions (there were or 8 brothers in total and open sources claim they were practically all eliminated. However, it is highly suspect in the intelligence community that some are still alive and living out of the country on fake passports, and these passports were provided by Georgian intelligence around 2001, and paid for with USG money.

Another question to ask is: "Who is this Randall Spears, ex-special services, (he was here in Georgia with Rusty Shultz), It appears that this [mechanism] the same thing that was going on in Georgia with some New Zealander (as noted in), and he was part of Rusty virtual world.

 Tamara Tiffany is another colorful person who can give you lots of information on Gerry Anderson, USAID Economic Development, and who was involved with the dirty mechanisms, not only involving Pankisi but regional plays, and Rusty Shultz.  Tamara has a rather sorted history in the case files of USAID OIG and most likely DEA too – as her first husband is alleged to have been involved in international drug trade out of South America.

Leon Waskins, USAID Mission Director, and get with her to find out who is who and what is going on with ARF, Pierre Van Hoeylandt, ARIES, AED

Next research ACDI/VOCA

Especially in terms of management turnover, how they have been near bankruptcy many times, and dive into the history or their projects (Georgia, Azerbaijan and what is going on in Afghanistan). I have also been trying to get all the contacts and it takes time.

As I wrote some years ago to a friend from the Patterson School, University of Kentucky: "Can you help me with a mailing list of key contacts to send information?" My friend who was with NSA and now head of a political science program suggested that:

I can contact the democrats directly and not waste my time. See quotes below: USAID is appears to be investigating the information that my sources provided but time will tell. Anyway, I sent this across: "Will be sending some stuff to the incoming Democratic chair of some relevant subcommittee (government operations committee, foreign relations, even appropriations).  The Administration won't care, but the Dems might."

There is no need to discuss anything until you have spoken to your own people in USAID/OIG – and networked with Embassies in the mentioned countries. A few emails and phone calls will bring you up to speed. Those involved in the ACDI/VOCA corruption think that they have a get out of jail card.

Bad Chechens 

Finally, check out who is Zura Otiashvili, connected with Georgian intelligence and Pankisi, and with Russian Embassy, as who were the Akhadadov Brothers (and you will find connections to the rural credit unions). One of the persons that were involved in the weapons for drug swaps, Imram Akhmadov (and in now in Turkey under a fake passport purchased with US government money (the family name on the false Georgian passport is Kavtarashvili).

This information comes directly from Chechens and Kist living in Pankisi, including two of his ex-wives (one working for a NGO in Pankisi and later as a refugee in Norway, and the other living with her brother who spent time in Afghanistan (was a translator for Northern Alliance).

About five years back he was working for Georgian intelligence but if some kind of deal could be made to help him out of Georgia then you would have a very good source of information as to the connections between these various countries and routes, especially with the ACDI/VOCA funding mechanism.

However, this is playing with a very hot fire.

Bigger Projects in Afghanistan to look at:

As a question asked about ARIES information [responding to my request]: "The project is $80 million to do both microfinance and SME lending in certain areas where USAID is trying to get people to shift away from opium cultivation (another project, the Alternative Livelihood project, is working there). So, it includes a North area near Tajik border, an area east of Kabul centered around the city of Jalalabad, the southern war region of Kandahar and Helmand, and the area around the city of Herat.

There are four main subcontractors doing the work as follows:

               1) FINCA is getting a $10 million grant to do microfinance.

               2) WOCCU gets about $15 million grant to make about 20 credit unions.

               The ex-Green Beret Special ops type Randall Spears heads up this operation,

               (and this should be the target for your corruption investigation)

               3) ACDIVOCA is getting something like $12 million grant to set up its usual credit cooperatives, headed by Rusty Shultz in [cohorts with Gerry Anderson].

4) About $30 million goes to an apex organization called MISFA. $15 million is to make SME loans through banks, and ShoreBank manages that as advisors to MISFA. The other $15 is for micro finance loans.

5) The rest is for administration.

The prime contractor, overseeing all the subcontractors is AED, which has no institutional expertise in rural credit (that is a can of worms to be opened as well). My deep throat at the time had excellent relations to the project leadership, so he will let you know once things start happening. But for now, Rusty Shultz is getting OK marks, lying low, making friends, nothing unusual has happened. His close buddy Gerry Anderson, USAID, looks more and more taking oversight of the ARIES project (which by the way is pretty much the biggest project in town). It appears that Gerry has taken a big fall, because he is now only deputy department head, whereas in Georgia he was department head.

As he wrote me many years ago, "Yeah, that Leon Waskins was the Mission Director.  Yeah, keeping digging on ARF, that is a very interesting story and you will better understand what went on in Pankisi and ACDI/VOCA.  

Ok, take care,

Unleash the dawgs!


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