He was a fruit wholesaler before the fall of the Taliban, then he got his start by providing security to CNN and CBS reporters. He recruited men from his home village in Dand, Kandahar, and was soon able to amass a force of hundreds ready to provide protection. He branched out into providing security for NGOs and NATO supply convoys. Today Ruhullah charges $1,000 per a truck and his force accompanies up to 500 trucks a week between Kabul and Kandahar.
“Nothing would happen without our help,” says Ruhullah in an interview. “We help the foreign forces and therefore help stability.”
While Ruhullah enjoys a near monopoly from Kabul to Kandahar, when trucking companies want to go further west – to supply troops in Helmand, for instance – they pay whichever local warlord or government official happens to be in the area to protect their convoy.
“We sometimes just wait around and when some trucks come we charge them to protect them,” explains a police officer in Helmand’s Lashkar Gah. Truckers themselves often negotiate a price on the spot, sometimes paying thousands of dollars to move from one town to the next. Some companies have cultivated relationships with Afghan Army and police commanders and pay them regularly for protection. In Helmand, for instance, associates of Governor Gulab Mangal are involved in the business.