Afghan security contractor oversight poor: Senate report

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 8, 2010 6:58am EDT

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) answers reporters' questions during the 2009 Reuters Washington Summit in Washington in this October 19, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) answers reporters' questions during the 2009 Reuters Washington Summit in Washington in this October 19, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate inquiry into private security contracting in Afghanistan concluded on Thursday that funds had sometimes been funneled to warlords who were linked to the Taliban, murder and kidnapping.

The inquiry, by the Senate Armed Service Committee, found private security forces were often poorly trained and supervised by their companies and inadequately overseen by Defense Department contract managers.

"All too often our reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan has empowered warlords, powerbrokers operating outside Afghan government control," Democratic Senator Carl Levin said in releasing the report.

"There is significant evidence that some security contractors even worked against our coalition forces, creating the very threat they are hired to combat," he added. "These contractors threaten the security of our troops and risk the success of our mission."

Richard Fontaine, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said the committee report "fills out a picture many have already suspected -- that taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan at times end up in the hands of those we are fighting."

"It is another wake-up call that the U.S. needs to take aggressive steps to get a better handle on contractors and subcontractors in Afghanistan," said Fontaine, who authored a June report on contracting.

"Getting a better handle on who is doing what, with what money and where that money is going, should be priority number one," he said.

Some 26,000 private security personnel -- a large proportion of them Afghan nationals -- were operating in Afghanistan under U.S. Defense Department contracts as of May 2010, the report said, citing figures from the U.S. Central Command's Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a decree in August giving foreign security contractors four months to disband. The Interior Ministry said on Sunday it had moved to shut down eight firms, seizing 400 weapons.

SOURCE OF FRICTION

Private security firms in Afghanistan provide guards for everything from embassies and aid agencies to supply convoys and U.S. military bases.

While providing vital services in the war-torn country, they have become a point of friction because of the involvement of some in high-profile shooting and other incidents.

The report documented one case, at the Shindand Airbase in Herat Province, where it said ArmorGroup North America was hired to provide security and used two competing warlords in the region to provide the men for the guard force.

The report said that over the course of the contract at the base, warlords and guards involved were implicated in murder, revenge attacks, bribery and anti-coalition activities. One of the warlords even hosted an August 2008 Taliban meeting that was raided by U.S. and Afghan forces, it added.

Officials at ArmorGroup's parent company, Wackenhut Services, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report concluded that the proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan was inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy being pursued by U.S.-led NATO forces seeking to defeat the Taliban insurgency and stabilize the country.

U.S. officials have indicated it would be difficult to get rid of all security contractors quickly because of the essential role they fill.

General David Petraeus, head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said last month that Karzai was prepared to allow contractors to remain at fixed bases like the Kabul electrical generating station, as well as embassies and other infrastructure sites. But the convoy escort firms would be disbanded, he said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (4)
anonymot wrote:
The glaring inconsistency between mercenaries out to make money and U.S. soldiers with a duty to defend America is has been and will be one of the great symbols of runaway capitalism. Were it not so tragic it would be a comic strip joke.

One of the reasons that so many of us will not vote again for Democrats is because this sort of madness has not been stopped. We voted for promises and got excuses, lip service, and lame explanations!

Yes, Petraeus will be happier under a new Republican administration, but in the end, America will not begin to heal itself until things get far worse. So the sooner they get to the bottom the better. Then pray it’s not to late to heal the cancer that the Bush administration created.

Oct 08, 2010 4:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mostlysane wrote:
I don’t like to make historical comparisons, they almost always end up falling flat. That being said, before the decline of the Roman empire, the military was made of mercenary units that could easily be bribed by the enemy. Aside from calling an entirely mercenary military force an “all volunteer army”, we even go further by hiring foreign and domestic mercenaries that have absolutely no loyalty to the mission or the American people. I find it disgusting that so called “warriors” would fight only for a paycheck, including the murder and destruction that comes along with it, but even more disgraceful that this nation would employ them.

Oct 08, 2010 8:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Gubernator wrote:
And it would seem Afghanies would agree…

http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ09Df04.html

It’s going to be hard to sell them an American/NATO solution to anything. If a job’s worth doing it worth doing right.

Oct 08, 2010 10:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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