Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Pat Tillman’s mother on Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal: I told you so

Over the last five years, the Pentagon and Congress have had numerous opportunities to hold accountable those responsible for the coverup of Pat’s death. Each time they’ve failed. The government didn’t just lie to us; it lied to a nation

Mary Tillman speaks on Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his role in covering up the truth about her son’s death

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was forced to retire because of remarks he made to a Rolling Stone reporter. Having read the article that led to his departure, I feel strangely validated. “The Runaway General” described by journalist Michael Hastings is exactly the arrogant individual I believed him to be.

McChrystal was in charge of Joint Special Operations Command in 2004, when my son, Pat, was killed in Afghanistan. But I didn’t become aware of him until March 2007. That’s when someone anonymously sent an Associated Press reporter a copy of a high-priority correspondence. The memo was written on April 29, 2004, by McChrystal and sent to Gen. John P. Abizaid, Gen. Bryan Douglas Brown and Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr. Its purpose was to warn President George W. Bush and other officials to avoid making public comments about Pat’s heroic death at the hands of the enemy, because it was beginning to seem “highly possible that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire.”

The memo went on to caution against “unknowing statements by our country’s leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death become public.”

We knew nothing about this memo at the time it was written. In fact, we did not learn until weeks after Pat’s memorial service that it was even possible he was killed by friendly fire.

The memo makes it clear there was no intention of telling the truth unless circumstances made it absolutely necessary. Much later, during Brig. Gen. Gary Jones’ investigation of Pat’s death, McChrystal was asked why we were kept in the dark.

“Question: Once you became aware that this was a possible fratricide, was there a conscious decision made not to tell the family of the possibility?”

“Witness: There was a conscious decision on who we told about the potential because we did not know all the facts. I did tell the senior leadership [long redaction] about the possibility prior to the memorial ceremony, because I felt they needed to know that before the ceremony. I believe that we did not tell the family of the possibility because we didn’t want to give them a half-baked finding.”

McChrystal says they didn’t want to give us a half-baked finding. Yet that is exactly what they did. Rather than being told there were questions about Pat’s death, we were presented with a contrived story, an absolute lie about how he had been killed by enemy fire.

What many people don’t realize is that Pat’s autopsy and field hospital report were very suspicious from the start. The autopsy gives a description of Pat’s body that led us to later question if the autopsy was even his, and the field hospital report contains language that suggests he was alive when he was brought back to the field hospital at Forward Operating Base Salerno. Yet soldiers’ statements indicated Pat was decapitated by the barrage of bullets, and he was deemed killed in action by the medic on the scene.

These horrifying discrepancies raised dire questions. Even the medical examiner called for a criminal investigation, but the adjutant general prevented it from going forward. By covering up the circumstances of Pat’s death, McChrystal and the rest of the chain of command may have, knowingly or unknowingly, covered up a crime.

McChrystal’s actions should have been grounds for firing him back then. That is why it was so disturbing to us when President Obama instead promoted McChrystal to the position of top commander in Afghanistan last year. At the time, I sent the president an e-mail and a letter reminding him of McChrystal’s involvement in Pat’s coverup. In the letter, I suggested McChrystal be “scrutinized very carefully” by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Pat’s father and I both gave statements to the media reiterating that McChrystal should be properly vetted. We had real knowledge of McChrystal’s questionable behavior, of actions that should perhaps have disqualified him from this position, and we felt it would be negligent not to do something. Our entreaties fell on deaf ears.

After McChrystal was forced to step down in June, I was contacted by several reporters and asked to give my thoughts about McChrystal, but I declined to comment. I hadn’t read the piece in its entirety, so it seemed inappropriate to respond. Now, though, I have read and thought about the article. Obama clearly had no choice but to relieve McChrystal of his command. But how sad that the president and Congress didn’t properly scrutinize the general a year ago.

People have asked, “Why is Pat so special that so much attention is given to his death”? I understand that question. Thousands of soldiers and Marines have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of their families have also been lied to, yet those deaths have not received the attention Pat’s did. And Pat’s death continues to be in the news.

Pat’s story initially became news because he was well known for having played in the NFL. The government used his fame to create propaganda for the war. Pat is not more important or special than any of the others who have fought in these wars, but the truth of what happened to Pat — and to every soldier who has died — is important. The truth shines a light on systematic corruption, incompetence and lack of accountability in the military and in government.

Over the last five years, the Pentagon and Congress have had numerous opportunities to hold accountable those responsible for the coverup of Pat’s death. Each time they’ve failed. The government didn’t just lie to us; it lied to a nation.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Propaganda | , , , , | Leave a comment

Foreign mercs must leave, Afghan president says

Tehran Times

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on the United States and its allies to stop supporting private security companies, saying the activities of these firms aggravate the country’s problems.

Karzai made the remarks in Kabul on Saturday during a visit to the Afghan Civil Service Institute, which is training thousands of civil servants in the capital and across the nation to bolster the capacity of the Afghan government, AP reported.

“To help strengthen the Afghan government, the U.S. and NATO should eliminate private security companies,” Karzai said, adding that their presence is “intolerable” since they have created a security structure that undermines the police and the army.

“Afghan or foreign companies, there are some 30,000 to 40,000 people in these security companies,” he noted.

“They have created security problems for us, whoever is working in these private security companies, they are not working for the benefit of Afghan national interests… If they really want to be at the service of Afghans, they should join the Afghan National Police,” Karzai added.

“Very urgently and seriously we want… the foreigners to stop creating private security companies,” the Afghan president said, adding, “we cannot tolerate these companies, which are like a parallel structure with our forces. We cannot have police, army and — at the same time — another force as private security companies.”

Kabul has confirmed the presence of 52 foreign private security companies in Afghanistan, including the notorious U.S. security firm Xe Services LLC — formerly known as Blackwater, Press TV reported.

Private security guards are operating in the country with absolutely no supervision by the Afghan government.

Karzai had earlier accused foreign security contractors of operating like militias, saying that the firms are only worsening the security situation in Afghanistan.

Most of the security contractors are believed to have close ties with Afghan warlords and have been accused of being partly responsible for the rise in civilian casualties in the country.

In the June 4 edition of The Wall Street Journal, it was reported that Xe’s most recent government contract tasked the group with protecting CIA bases in Afghanistan.

The report was confirmed at the end of June by Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta during a TV interview, the newspaper wrote.

Blackwater/Xe mercs were hated by the Iraqis during their time in that country because they were able to kill many civilians with impunity, Press TV reported.

Afghan civilian deaths up

Civilian war deaths in the first seven months of 2010 rose by 6 percent over the same period last year, Afghanistan’s human rights commission revealed on Sunday.

The Taliban and their allies were responsible for 68 percent of the at least 1,325 civilian deaths recorded by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the organization said at a press conference. Twenty-three percent were ascribed to NATO or Afghan government forces, The Associated Press reported.

Responsibility for the remaining 9 percent could not be determined because they occurred in areas that were too dangerous for a thorough investigation, the commission said.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheryl Beckett part of Medical Team executed in Afghanistan

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. Associated Press

The family of Tennessee woman says she is one of 10 members of a medical team gunned down in Afghanistan. The family of 32-year-old Cheryl Beckett said in a statement Sunday that she was part of the team providing eye care and medical aid in northern Afghanistan. Beckett is the daughter of a Knoxville pastor. She had been in Afghanistan for six years and specialized in nutritional gardening and mother-child health.

People who knew her say she was a positive and caring person.

“We’re going to miss her a lot, and we’re gonna miss the way that she put smiles on senior citizens ‘ face… all the members of the church’s face,” says Marion Rhodes, a friend of Beckett’s.

Beckett was the Valedictorian of her high school and earned a biology degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, NGO's | , , , | 6 Comments

NATO says 3 US soldiers killed in roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – NATO says three U.S. troops have died in two roadside bombings in the south.

The latest deaths on Sunday increase to six the number of Americans who have died so far in Afghanistan this month. NATO did not disclose the details of the deaths.

Last month a record 66 American troops were killed, compared with 44 in July last year. A record total of 103 international troops, including Americans, died in June, more than triple the figure for the same month in 2009.

Meanwhile, the military coalition said three Afghan civilians were killed by insurgent attacks or bombs Saturday, while five NATO service members – three Americans and two Danes – were killed the same day.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Afghan inmate kills two US soldiers

An Afghan inmate has gone on a shooting spree killing two US marines and wounded three others at a prison in Afghanistan’s volatile south.

US Marines and British soldiers on a joint foot patrol in Musa Qala

The incident took place at the heartland of Taliban in Musa Qala district of Helmand Province, informed sources told a Press TV correspondent on Sunday.

Two prisoners and the gunman also died in the incident but the circumstances of their killing remains unclear.

Sources say the gunman had either smuggled in the weapon or snatched it from an Afghan guard on duty.

In similar cases over the past few months Afghan army recruits have killed several US and British troops at training camps. Analysts believe such incidents indicate Afghan dissatisfaction with the foreign presence in the country.

Foreign forces are experiencing some of their deadliest days in Afghanistan since the start of the US-led invasion of the country nine years ago.

According to official NATO tally almost 2,000 foreign soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan so far.

This is while Afghanistan’s official Baakhtar news agency said in a recent report that the US-led war has claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 foreign soldiers since 2001.

The rising number of casualties has drastically decreased public support for the Afghan war across Europe and the US.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Little, New York Optometrist, Executed in Afghanistan

‘A hundred rockets a day was a good day,’ doctor’s widow says

Tom Little (right) died right where he loved to be, according to his wife, Libby Little.

CNN— Risking their lives to help disadvantaged Afghans became almost a norm for Tom and Libby Little.

“We raised our three daughters through what was, at times, just hell,” Libby Little said. “A hundred rockets a day was a good day.”

Family members lived underground to avoid bombings, she said. Yet they stayed out of a love for the people and a passion for providing eye care for the needy.

But violence prevailed on Thursday.

Tom Little, a New York optometrist, was among 10 people killed by gunmen in Badakhshan, a remote northeastern region of the country. The mostly foreign members of a medical team were robbed and shot one-by-one on a remote road. Their bodies were transferred to Kabul early Sunday, authorities said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

“He died right where he loved to be — and that was doing eye care in remote areas,” Little said from her home in New York. “Our daughters are missing him terribly. But I think their feeling is, too, that this is a real passion that he had.”

More than 400 people gathered Sunday at Loudonville Community Church in Loudonville, New York, to honor Little. The church supported his trip financially and emotionally. Read more here

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | 3 Comments

Dr.Thomas Grams, Colo. Dentist Among 10 Killed in Afghanistan

51-Year-Old Thomas Grams Quit Job 4 Years Ago to Work in Non-Profit Dental Group

In this 2007 photo released by Kay Shaw of Global Dental Relief, a Denver-based group that sends teams of dentists around the globe, Dr. Thomas Grams, 51, formerly of Durango, Colo., works with a patient in Kathmandu, Nepal. Grams was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010 along with five other Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton, Shaw said.

(AP) A 51-year-old Colorado dentist was among 10 members of a medical team gunned down in Afghanistan earlier this week, a nonprofit dental group said Sunday.

Dr. Thomas Grams had quit his dental practice four years ago to work full-time giving impoverished children free dental care in Nepal and Afghanistan, said Katy Shaw of Global Dental Relief, a Denver-based group that sends teams of dentists around the globe.

“This just breaks my heart,” she said.

Grams was killed Thursday along with five other Americans on a medical trip, Shaw said. The Taliban has claimed credit for the attack, saying the workers were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The bodies of the assassinated medical team – which included six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton – were returned to Kabul aboard helicopters Sunday. The families of the six Americans were formally notified of their deaths after U.S. officials confirmed their identities, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the embassy.

Names of most of the foreigners have not been released pending formal identification.

Officials have said the victims included team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, who had lived in Afghanistan for about 30 years, and Dr. Karen Woo, who gave up a job in a private clinic in London to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Shaw described Grams Sunday as “a sweetie pie” who was quiet and shy but opened up around children. She said the group got word of his death Saturday.

The team was attacked while returning to Kabul after a two-week mission in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan province about 160 miles north of Kabul. The bullet-riddled bodies were found Friday near three four-wheeled drive vehicles in a wooded area just off the main road through a narrow valley in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan.

The gunmen spared an Afghan driver who told police he recited verses from the Islamic holy book the Quran as he begged for his life.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Glenn Lap Executed in Afghanistan

Pa. man among 10 civilians killed in Afghanistan

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — A religious relief and service organization says a central Pennsylvania man was one of 10 members of a medical team gunned down in Afghanistan.

The Mennonite Central Committee says the family of 40-year-old Glen Lapp of Lancaster was informed of his death Sunday morning. He was part of the International Assistance Mission providing eye care and medical help. The Taliban says it was responsible, alleging that the workers were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The committee says Lapp was a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and had a nursing degree from Johns Hopkins University. He also volunteered to help the response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita and worked as a nurse in Lancaster, New York City and Supai, Ariz.

Lapp’s mother, Mary, said Sunday the family was referring all calls to Mennonite Central Committee.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Karen Woo, executed in Afghanistan

Tributes have been paid to a Stevenage doctor who was killed following an ambush by gunmen in Afghanistan.

Karen Woo, 36, a surgeon from Stevenage was killed in Afghanistan

Dr Karen Woo, 36, was one of 10 aid workers killed by insurgents while working for International Assistance Mission (IAM), a non profit-making Christian organisation. It is believed they were executed, while pleading for mercy returning to the capital Kabul after returning from a mission helping youngsters with eye problems.

A statement on the IAM website said: “This tragedy affects our ability to continue serving the Afghan people. We hope it will not stop our work that benefits more than a quarter of a million Afghans each year.”

As tributes poured in an unnamed quote in tribute to the Stevenage medic said: “She was a beautiful soul and had such a big heart. We will miss her in Kabul.”

Among posts on Facebook, her cousin Lorraine Nugent wrote: “My beautiful, brave, caring cousin Karen Woo has been killed delivering aid and medical care in Afghanistan. Why? She was there because she cared about others.’’

It is believed that Dr Woo was due to fly home to marry security contractor Mark Paddy Smith, a man she had met in Afghanistan, in a ceremony in Chelsea.

Her family have been too upset to comment on the tragedy. Her father Tehaun Woo, 67, an engineer, and mother Lynn, 66, a former nurse at Lister Hospital were believed to have been planning the register office wedding this week.

Reports suggest that Dr Woo and her colleagues, six Americans, a German doctor and two interpreters, were marched from their vehicles and shot on Friday. It is not known yet whether the atrocity was the work of the Taliban or the actions of robbers on what was thought to be a safe road back to the capital. Only one person, a Muslim in the convoy, is thought to have survived the attack. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Afghan death doctor ‘not preaching’

The family of a British doctor killed in Afghanistan have refuted claims that she was a Christian missionary.

Dr Karen Woo, 36, was among eight foreign aid workers executed by gunmen in an ambush in Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan province.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shootings. A spokesman said the team was killed because they were “preaching Christianity” and “spying for the Americans”.

However, in a statement, Dr Woo’s family said: “Her motivation was purely humanitarian. She was a Humanist and had no religious or political agenda. She wanted the world to know there was more than a war going on in Afghanistan, that people were not getting their basic needs met. She wanted the ordinary people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children, to be able to receive healthcare.

“She undertook this trek as a medical doctor, accompanying medical supplies and to provide treatment to people who lived in an extremely remote region who had little to no healthcare available. Her commitment was to make whatever difference she could. She was a true hero. Whilst scared, she never let that prevent her from doing things she had to do.”

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US helps Sri Lanka to de-mine further

New Karala

Aug 6 : The US will contribute Rs. 581 million (5.4 million dollars) more for demining in Sri Lanka until the next summer, an embassy said Friday. These funds follow on the Rs.742 million (USD 6.6 million) contribution from the US to four international demining agencies working in the island’s north. Tens of thousands of mines were laid by the military and the Tamil Tigers during their long conflict that ended in May last year with the crushing defeat of the Tigers.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Demining | , , | Leave a comment