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US Senate Panel Releases Scathing Report on Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan

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Cindy Saine

On the ninth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, the Senate Armed Services Committee has released a report on an inquiry into private security contractors operating under U.S. Defense Department contracts and subcontracts in Afghanistan. The news is not good for U.S. taxpayers, as the report finds that some of the money they are sending to Afghanistan is actually undermining U.S. military operations there.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, got right to the point as he announced the results a year-long bi-partisan inquiry into the role and oversight of private security contractors used by the U.S. Defense Department in Afghanistan.

"The report describes a number of private security contractors funneling U.S. taxpayer dollars to Afghan warlords and strongmen who are linked to murder, kidnapping, bribery, pro-Taliban and anti-coalition activities," said Senator Levin.

The report includes details of a U.S. Air Force subcontract with ArmorGroup, a company hired to provide security at an Afghan air base.  It says ArmorGroup relied on Afghan warlords, some of whom were Taliban supporters, to provide manpower for the company's guard force at the airbase.  While the contract was going on, one of those warlords, referred to by the company as Mr. White was killed by another one of the warlords, known as Mr. Pink in a shootout at an Afghan bazaar.  A third warlord was killed in a U.S. and Afghan military raid on a Taliban meeting being held at his house that resulted in a significant number of Afghan civilian casualties.

The report also details a number of incidents of private security guards who were high on opium during their security duty, and who had not been trained to use their firearms.

Senator Levin said Congress is working with the Department of Defense to make sure that the recipients of security contracts are properly vetted.

"So we much shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and powerbrokers who act contrary to our interests, and who contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the Afghan people for their government and for our effort," he said.

Levin said top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan are aware of the problem, and are more closely supervising security contracts.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced a ban on private security firms in August that would take effect by the end of this year.  NATO's International Security Assistance Force relies on private contractors to guard bases and supply lines, and a number of international organizations, including the United Nations, also use private security firms.

President Karzai said private security companies hired to guard international embassies or organizations are exempt from the decreed ban.  The plan is for Afghan police and soldiers to fill the gap as some of the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 private security forces hired by the U.S. government leave the country next year.

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