News / USA

US Senators Criticize Blackwater Contractors in Afghanistan

Meredith Buel

Members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday were strongly critical of private contractors working for the company formerly known as Blackwater in Afghanistan, accusing them of ignoring regulations and threatening the American mission there.  

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee lambasted the contractors who worked for a company called Paravant, a subsidiary of Blackwater being paid to train members of the Afghan National Army.  

Two former employees, Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff, have been charged with killing two Afghans and injuring a third last year, an incident which fueled anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan.

In a separate occurrence, a contractor for the same company was riding on the back of a moving car when his AK-47 assault rifle discharged, seriously injuring one of the other trainers on his team.

A committee investigation of the company revealed that contracting personnel acquired hundreds of weapons, including more than 500 AK-47s, from a facility in Kabul that stores arms for use by the Afghan police.  The contractors were not authorized to be armed.

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill says if members of the U.S. military were involved in such actions they would face immediate and serious consequences.

"If one of the Army had gone out there with an AK-47 they were not supposed to have on top of a moving vehicle and shot a guy in the head and paralyzed him something would have happened in that chain of command," said Claire McCaskill. "And if they had kept somebody on the force that had been using cocaine, that had been drunk, that had been charged with larceny that had done all these things these guys had done, they went out and killed Afghan people in the spring of 2009, something would have happened to them if they were in the military."

Senator McCaskill says most Afghans do not distinguish between private American contractors and members of the U.S. military.

She says reckless behavior by contractors is jeopardizing the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

"And what is killing me about this problem with Blackwater is we have two sets of rules and one image," she said. "And as long as we have two sets of rules and one image we are in trouble on this mission."

The chairman of the committee, Democratic Senator Carl Levin, says Blackwater operated in Afghanistan without sufficient oversight or supervision and little consideration of the rules it was legally obligated to follow.

Levin says the alleged killing of Afghans by the contractors has hurt America's image and could make the military's mission more dangerous.

"We know what the ramifications are and they are still reverberating of that shooting in terms of the Afghan public distrust of so many of our activities there," said Carl Levin. "Still, we have to overcome that.  We gradually are.  Our whole strategy is to protect the public, to show them that we are not there to dominate, we are not there to control, we are there to help them control their own country against the menace that they face."

Blackwater has changed its name to Xe (pronounced Zee) Services and overhauled its management.

Fred Roitz, a vice president for Xe Services who had a similar position with Blackwater, appeared at the hearing and offered his condolences to the Afghan families affected by the shooting.

"The independent contractor's actions that night clearly violated company policies against the use of alcohol, unauthorized use of vehicles and taking weapons outside the training area," said Fred Roitz. "Those contractors are being held accountable by the law, as they should be."

Senator Levin says there are more than 100,000 U.S. Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan and most act responsibly and help execute the U.S. mission, sometimes at great risk to their own safety.

Xe Services continues to employ hundreds of personnel in Afghanistan and many are providing security in the country.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid