The Associated Press has obtained a classified Pentagon document, which details an intelligence-gathering mission headed by a DOD contractor. The report calls for the man’s investigation because the Pentagon claims his team “went too far in gathering human intelligence”.
The gathered intelligence was used in counterinsurgency efforts, and involved several retired CIA, special operations veterans, and subcontractors.
The Pentagon seems to be making the charge that retired Army officer Michael Furlong’s “Information Operations Capstone” amounted to a “violation of executive orders”. Assistant Secretary for Intelligence Oversight, Michael Decker and others at the DOD have concluded that Capstone amounted to an illegal spying ring of private military contractors. Furlong denies the charges and says he has not been shown the document so that he can answer the charges. The information gathered during this operation was used to target militants in Afghanistan and Iraq- Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, to name two groups.
There were supposed to be more elements of nation-building than were performed, according to the report. Since the war is not yet over in either country- there are, as yet, no peace treaties, after all- why are military intelligence contractors being forced to perform any nation-building activities right now? What kind of political pressure is causing the Pentagon to allow these documents to be leaked to the press, and why are they throwing Michael Furlong under the bus?
Could it be linked to the pedophilic practice known as bacha baz? This is the term used in Afghanistan for the practice of older men taking young boys from ages 9 to 15 as lovers. It is a common and open practice in Afghan society. Social Scientist AnnaMaria Cardinalli told SFGate.com’s Joel Brinkley in August of this year that she was hired by the DOD to study this disgusting phenomenon. She told the paper that roughly half the men of the Pashtun tribe in Kandahar Province were proudly bacha baz. The term means literally, “boy player”. They hold weekly dance parties where the boys dress as girls, and put bells on their feet. While they dance, the men throw money at them and take them home for sex. Hamid Karzai, Afghan President, is of the Pashtun tribe, from a small village outside Kandahar.
He has 6 brothers; people close to him reported to Ms. Cardinalli that at least one, possibly two of Karzai’s brothers were bacha baz .The Pashtun tribe has been historically the most important tribe in Afghanistan, and for centuries most of the country’s rulers have been Pashtun.
The disgusting practice results, say some leading sociologists, from perversion of Islamic Law. Women, because of menstruation, are seen as unclean, and because a man is not allowed to even look at an unrelated woman until after proposing marriage, women are more easily subverted, because of their unapproachable status in society.
Homosexuality is outlawed as well, but the men shrug that off, claiming that it is not homosexual to be bacha baz, because they aren’t in love with the boys. This is sick, filthy and disgusting. Our soldiers are forced to be maimed, killed, and to fight for pedophiles who despise women and Western culture and civilization.
A Defense contractor who has done his job, gathered needed intelligence to stop insurgents, target the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and save American and NATO Forces’ lives, is being thrown under the bus by the Pentagon. Why? To save a country full of boy players? Or is Karzai hiding another secret worth bags of money?
“This is a lot like kangaroo court justice,” said Mr. Furlong
WASHINGTON — A senior Pentagon official broke Defense Department rules and “deliberately misled” senior generals when he set up a network of private contractors to spy in Afghanistan and Pakistan beginning last year, according to the results of an internal government investigation.
The Pentagon investigation concluded that the official, Michael D. Furlong, set up an “unauthorized” intelligence network to collect information in both countries — some of which was fed to senior generals and used for strikes against militant groups — while masking the entire operation as a more benign information operations campaign.
The inquiry concluded that “further investigation is warranted of the misleading and incorrect statements the individual made” about the legality of the program, according to Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.
Reached by telephone on Thursday, Mr. Furlong was angry about the conclusions of the investigation, saying that nobody from the Defense Department ever interviewed him as part of the inquiry.
“This is a lot like kangaroo court justice,” Mr. Furlong said.
He said that his work had been approved by a number of senior military officers in Afghanistan, and that he had never misled anyone about what he was doing.
“They only talked to one side, and those are the people running for cover,” he said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered the investigation after The New York Times reported on the existence of the network in March. The inquiry was carried out by Michael Decker, a top aide to Mr. Gates for intelligence issues.
The results of the Pentagon investigation are classified, and Defense Department officials gave few specifics about the accusations.
Mr. Furlong, a senior Air Force civilian official, has been barred from his office in San Antonio for several months. The Air Force inspector general is conducting a separate investigation into the matter, to determine whether Mr. Furlong broke any laws or committed contract fraud.
Pentagon rules forbid the hiring of contractors as spies. Military officials said that when Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the top commander in the region, signed off on Mr. Furlong’s operation in January 2009, there were specific prohibitions against intelligence-gathering, including hiring agents to provide information about enemy positions in Pakistan.
The contractors were supposed to provide only broad information about the political and tribal dynamics in the region — called “atmospherics” — and “force protection” information that might protect American troops from attack, the officials said.
But some Pentagon officials said that over time the operation appeared to transition into traditional spying activities.
Mr. Furlong’s network, composed of a group of small companies that used agents deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan to collect intelligence on militant groups, operated under a $22 million contract run by Lockheed Martin.
One of the companies used a group of American, Afghan and Pakistani agents overseen by Duane Clarridge, a Central Intelligence Agency veteran best known for his role in the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Clarridge declined to be interviewed.
Officials said that the contractors delivered their intelligence reports via “Hushmail,” an encrypted e-mail service, to an “information operations fusion cell” at a military base at Kabul International Airport. There, the reports were put into classified military computer networks and used either for future military operations or intelligence reports.
The contractors continued their work for weeks after Mr. Gates ordered the investigation, sending dozens of reports to the fusion center. The Pentagon finally let the contract lapse at the end of May.
Colonel Lapan said the investigation concluded that Pentagon rules governing intelligence operations needed to be more clearly defined and that “better coordination and de-confliction of both intelligence and information operations is required by staffs at all levels.” Please see the original article here
The State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today released a damning performance evaluation of ArmorGroup North America (AGNA), the contractor responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Among the revelations from today’s OIG report:
- AGNA employed, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security failed to scrutinize, “Nepalese guards without verifiable experience, training, or background investigations in violation of its contract.”
- “AGNA cannot account for 101 U.S. Government-furnished weapons that have been missing since 2007. AGNA used U.S. Government-furnished weapons for training rather than required contractor-furnished weapons.”
- “AGNA regularly allows individuals who are not vetted by Embassy Kabul’s regional security office unescorted access to Camp Sullivan, a U.S. Government-owned camp containing sensitive materials.”
The report confirms and expands on the findings of our investigation last year, which pulled back the curtain on a “Lord of the Flies environment” that had taken hold of the Embassy security guard force.
Lewd and obscene photos of AGNA security guards helped our investigation garner considerable attention—but the key revelation, as detailed in our letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that the State Department was failing to conduct oversight of a contractor performing an incredibly important service. Today’s OIG report is just one more piece of evidence demonstrating that the State Department continues to struggle in its oversight of private security contractors.
Find statements by POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian and POGO investigator Jake Wiens here.
ArmorGroup’s contract expired on June 30, 2010, but the company will continue to guard the Embassy through the end of 2010. The State Department has selected EOD Technology, Inc. (EODT) to take over security at the Embassy.
— Bryan Rahija
- Testimony of Danielle Brian before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan Regarding Private Security Contractors
- Senate Report Says ArmorGroup Funded Warlords In Bed With the Taliban
- Did Triple Canopy Instruct Its Guards to Lie to State Department Investigators?
- Kabul Embassy Deja Vu
- Kabul Embassy Guards Back in the Spotlight
- POGO Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding U.S. Embassy in Kabul
President Hamid Karzai’s plan to shut down private security forces in Afghanistan has many military contractors and assorted peace-builders in a panic. But some humanitarian aid workers in the country contend that a ban isn’t such a bad idea.
For years, non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan have condemned the militarization of humanitarian work, and have struggled to define a role that is distinct from the armed, for-profit development contractors in the conflict zone. Yet usually, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), contractors, humanitarians and development entrepreneurs have all been lumped together under the generic “aid worker” rubric. The Afghan government’s planned prohibition on private security companies (PSCs) could change that, helping to differentiate the humanitarians from other forms of development work.
Foreign for-profit development contractors have threatened to pull out of Afghanistan, since the August decree issued by Karzai would prevent them from relying on private security companies for protection. Instead, they would have to depend on the Afghan National Police to provide security. The only exceptions would be for military bases and diplomatic missions.
The ban was originally scheduled to take effect on December 17. But on October 27, Karzai agreed to push back the implementation deadline by two months. Karzai’s administration has come under intense pressure from Washington to relent on the ban.
Representatives of various humanitarian aid organizations are not worried by the looming ban to anywhere near the same extent as are the for-profit contractors. Many have long been living with high risk in order to deliver their services. Some even say the demise of private security companies would be beneficial.
“To the extent that it [the ban] helps to de-militarize the environment and to the extent that it reinforces the government’s monopoly on the use of force, I think ultimately it would be a positive thing,” Nic Lee, director of ANSO (Afghanistan NGO Safety Office), a non-profit humanitarian project that monitors safety conditions for the NGO sector, told EurasiaNet.org.
“There is no type of armed action that is conducive to humanitarian activity,” Lee continued. “So the less armed activity you have is always going to improve humanitarian space and humanitarian access.”
Many aid workers say they have a moral duty to work without armed protection in order to maintain their neutrality in a conflict zone. Of the 2,000 Afghan and 360 international NGOs operating across Afghanistan, “less than six use the services of a PSC, most commonly to provide unarmed guards at offices and homes,” according to ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief), an NGO umbrella organization.
In a joint statement issued with ANSO on October 25, ACBAR sought to distance the non-profit NGO community from for-profit contractors, emphasizing “the ban on PSCs will have no negative impact on aid delivery by the vast majority of humanitarian NGOs.”
While NGOs rely on the communities where they work to ensure their safety, the for-profit “development contractors” often depend on PSCs. Donors support their work as part of NATO’s counter-insurgency strategy, thus bringing them between the military and Taliban militants, and also muddying the waters between non-profit humanitarian work and for-profit development.
These private development contractors receive the bulk of donor money flowing into Afghanistan largely from the US government’s development arm, USAID. Thus, major donors like USAID have been scrambling for a way to keep their “implementing partners” in the country. Some large USAID contractors like DAI (Development Alternatives, Inc.) have said they would have to close down some projects, if the ban is implemented. Other private development companies have complained to the US Embassy that their employees “will vote with their feet.”
Donors suggest that their ongoing discussions with the Afghan government will lead to a compromise. But Karzai, despite delaying implementation of the ban, still seems determined to lock private security firms out of Afghanistan, calling them a menace to stability.
Employing development contractors is a fundamental part of Gen. David Petraeus’ much-touted counter-insurgency strategy. Petraeus, the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, is said to be lobbying Karzai’s government for an exception to the ban that covers a wide array of peace-building activities.
Even the United Nations is reviewing its programs to assess the ban’s potential impact. With UNAMA (the UN’s umbrella organization in Afghanistan) playing an overt political role, the mission has suffered increasing attacks. An attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul last October left six international UN workers dead. On October 24, UN security repelled an attack on a UN guesthouse in Herat, killing four armed insurgents. The UN hopes its own security forces will be exempted from the new rule.
Not all donors use private security companies. The Indian Embassy, which has suffered two massive suicide bombings in the past three years, uses a combination of ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police, an Indian government paramilitary organization) and Afghan National Police to guard the embassy, as well as its projects.
The Canadian government also indicated that a ban would have a minimal impact on aid operations that it sponsors. “Most of our development assistance implementing partners do not use private security firms,” a spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy said, adding that Ottawa had sought an implementation plan that would allow the international community to remain in Afghanistan while respecting the goals of the presidential decree.
Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the past 19 years.
Anham FCZO LLC said its logistics contract with the U.S. Department of Defense is final and that it has started to implement it with a view to fully taking over the order by the end of this year.
“It has been final for a while,” Managing Director Mogheith Sukhtian told reporters today in Kuwait City. “We have a signed contract with the U.S. government.”
Dubai-based Anham said April 16 it was awarded a $2.2 billion contract by the U.S. Defense Department to provide logistical support to U.S. troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan.
Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co., a cargo shipper, said April 28 that it filed an objection to the awarding of the contract to Anham, which it said failed to meet criteria. The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency decided to take “corrective measures” regarding the objection and will receive amended offers from bidders “to take new decisions for a new settlement,” Kuwait & Gulf Link said in July.
“The protest process is a part of the U.S. government contracting process and it’s conducted in the normal course of U.S government contracts,” Sukhtian said. “So we’re undergoing the process but in the meantime, what we can say, is that the contract is being executed. We anticipate the transition between the incumbent and us to be completed by the end of the year,” Sukhtian added.
The incumbent contractor, Agility Public Warehousing Co., is the Middle East’s largest storage and logistics company and faces charges of overbilling the U.S government on a multibillion dollar contract to supply food for troops in Kuwait and Iraq. Agility had said it was in talks to resolve legal cases with the U.S. Department of Justice and there was no guarantee a settlement would be agreed.
A U.S. magistrate recommended the dismissal of an indictment against Agility’s unit, Agility DGS Holdings Inc., in connection with the company’s contract to feed U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait, Agility said Oct. 11. Please see the original story here
By MARISA TAYLOR
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government knows it’s awarded nearly $18 billion in contracts for rebuilding Afghanistan over the past three years, but it can’t account for spending before 2007.
Thousands of firms received wartime contracts, but the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) found it too difficult to untangle how billions of additional dollars had been spent because of the U.S. agencies’ poor recordkeeping.
“Navigating the confusing labyrinth of government contracting is difficult, at best,” the inspector general says in a report that was released Wednesday.
The finding raises doubts about whether the U.S. government ever will determine whether taxpayers’ money was spent wisely in Afghanistan.
“Data got better from 2007 on,” said Susan Phalen, a spokeswoman with SIGAR, “but it remains to be seen whether we’ll ever know how much U.S. agencies spent overall.”
Overall, the U.S. has set aside about $55 billion for rebuilding Afghanistan, but that includes agencies’ budget for staff salaries, operations and security. SIGAR couldn’t parse how much was spent on contractors alone.
SIGAR recommended that the Pentagon, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development create one database to track wartime contracts. As it stands, the Pentagon has four contracting agencies that oversee contracts, but none of them are sharing information. SIGAR found a lack of coordination among all the U.S. agencies that oversee contracting in Afghanistan, not just the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, a handful of companies received a majority of the contracts, auditors found.
USAID, for example, awarded almost half of the $2 billion it set aside for Afghanistan projects to two companies, Louis Berger and Development Alternatives Inc. Overall, the agency doled out contracts to 214 companies.
Of 6,600 firms that have received contracts from the Pentagon for Afghanistan, 44 of them received more than half the military’s business there. One contractor, DynCorp International, accounted for about 75 percent of all the contracts for Afghanistan that two State Department bureaus awarded.
The military’s joint contracting command acknowledged problems with its tracking, but it told auditors that it’s trying to improve it.
Although the State Department and USAID received drafts of the report from SIGAR so they could comment on it, they didn’t respond.
The report is the latest to criticize the United States’ handling of contracts in Afghanistan. A SIGAR audit released Wednesday concluded that six police stations in a dangerous stretch of southern Afghanistan were so poorly constructed by the Afghan contractor that they can’t be occupied. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t detect the problems and paid the firm almost $5 million of the $5.5 million contract price. Please go here to read the original at McClatchyand to comment on the story
WASHINGTON — U.S. government auditors who’ve been examining Afghan construction projects have found serious problems with a crucial part of the Obama administration’s plans to bolster the country’s security forces so American troops can begin to leave next July.
McClatchy has obtained an upcoming report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction that says six police stations in a dangerous stretch of southern Afghanistan were so poorly constructed by the Afghan contractor, Basirat Construction Firm, that they can’t be occupied.
The SIGAR report, which is about to be released, concludes that conditions at the stations are so hazardous that “inadequate concrete and foundation work calls into question the structural integrity of the buildings and raises the risk of total building collapse in the event of a significant earthquake.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nonetheless passed up chances to penalize Basirat and paid it almost $5 million of the $5.5 million contract price, according to the report.
SIGAR concludes that the company would have to make at least $1 million in repairs before the buildings could be occupied. However, Basirat “has little incentive” to address the problems because it’s been paid and it’s unlikely to win any more contracts from the U.S. government, the report says.
The Army Corps of Engineers has embarked on a multi-billion-dollar construction program to house the Afghan National Army and National Police, which are the backbone of President Barack Obama’s plans to start withdrawing American troops from the country next July.
The six police stations were designated for districts in tense Kandahar and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are battling the Taliban-led Afghan insurgency.
The stations represent a pattern that current and former U.S. officials said had been repeated across Afghanistan: failures resulting from an overextended Afghan contractor working in a remote area where security has worsened because of a growing insurgency and with insufficient U.S. Army oversight.
Making matters worse, some Afghan firms are loaded down with “contract after contract” in the rush to build, even though they’re not equipped to handle major projects, said John Brummet, a SIGAR assistant inspector general for audits.
In the case of the Basirat contract, the Army Corps of Engineers subcontracted oversight to local Afghans.
When auditors later arrived at the sites, they found electrical wires strung through windows, cracks in walls, gas lines hanging in the open, windows installed at a tilt and shoddy roofing.
At one site, in Helmand province’s Nad Ali district, an Afghan police unit “forcibly occupied” the uncompleted structure and intentionally destroyed half the roof, a development that seems to bode ill for long-term maintenance of police headquarters across Afghanistan, even when they’re properly constructed.
The report also documents a case in which local quality monitors hired by the Corps of Engineers submitted photographs that purported to document construction progress. However, the photographs’ digital time stamps had been altered or erased.
The Army Corps of Engineers agreed with SIGAR’s assessment of the construction problems, but said the lack of security in the area prevented it from monitoring the projects.
SIGAR, however, countered that security concerns don’t explain why the corps “failed to retain adequate project funds as hedge against poor contractor performance and authorized payments without sufficient justification.”
Yamae er Shadi, a Basirat program manager, acknowledged in a telephone interview that the company had won the contracts “at a very low price” and now “we have a shortage of money” to complete the work. He added that he’s job hunting because he doesn’t expect the company to pay him in the future.
Kenneth Moorefield, a Pentagon assistant inspector general, told Congress late last year that, “There are few Afghan companies with the requisite experience to effectively undertake and complete projects at the required standards.”
“While many Afghans gladly accept the offer of employment, most are not qualified to contribute more than manual labor,” he said.
In some cases, even the laborers may not be up to the job.
Falls Church, Va.-based DynCorp International LLC had to train its construction workers to hammer nails and pour concrete at the site of a project to build an Afghan army garrison, SIGAR found in an earlier audit.
Basirat’s problems didn’t begin or end with the police station contract.
The State Department suspended the company in August from new U.S. government contracts because of allegations of corruption related to its work on a $26.5 million renovation of Pol-i-Charki prison outside Kabul. Basirat was awarded a contract to oversee the renovation in July 2009, despite the Army Corps of Engineers having removed it months earlier from two other failed police station projects.
The department is investigating allegations, which Basirat has denied, that it improperly colluded with another Afghan-based firm, Al Watan Construction Co., to help it win some of the prison renovation work. Al Watan has been suspended, as well.
Basirat also allegedly bribed a former U.S. official who’d overseen the prison project to help it prepare an appeal when it was kicked off yet another contract, according to Obaidur Rahman, the company’s president.
In an e-mail response to questions, Rahman denied any impropriety. “I hope this problem will be resolved soon and I already apologized for not being aware of an ‘ethics rule’ violation to be applied when working with U.S. government projects,” he wrote.
Rahman said that of the six police stations in Helmand and Kandahar, two had been completed and delivered, the Army Corps of Engineers was giving a final review to a third, a fourth was almost completed and the two others, in Kandahar, had encountered trouble with a subcontractor.
SIGAR is under pressure to demonstrate its ability to root out fraud and waste in Afghanistan after four senators recently wrote to Obama demanding the resignation of the agency’s head, Arnold Fields, a retired Marine Corps major general.
The Justice Department reviewed the agency recently and decided not to revoke its law enforcement authority.
SIGAR released two reports Tuesday. One warned that massive foreign assistance in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, including an estimated $100 million U.S. investment in fiscal year 2009, is at risk of being wasted because of haphazard coordination and the province’s inability to absorb the aid.
The other report found confusion among U.S. civilians assigned to Afghanistan about their duties and whom they report to. The Obama administration has launched a civilian “surge” as part of its counterinsurgency strategy, with civilian personnel increasing from 320 to 1,500 by January 2012. Please read the original at McClatchy
The Obama administration is in the final stages of implementing a law that bars contractors from interrogating military detainees.
As part of the defense authorization bill passed last year, Congress approved a provision that would bar contractors from interrogating detainees in the custody of the Department of Defense. The Pentagon will implement that policy through an interim final rule, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review earlier this week.
Lawmakers pressed to see the law passed after abuse scandals at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the U.S. military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, during the George W. Bush administration brought to light the unregulated role of private contractors in the interrogation of military detainees.
Crafting the regulations to implement laws passed by Congress can take months, if not years, to complete.
The Obama administration initially objected to the interrogation provisions in last year’s defense bill. It called on lawmakers to rewrite the legislation so that the rules and regulations applying to military interrogators would also apply to those under contract.
“In some limited cases, a contract interrogator may possess the best combination of skills to obtain critical intelligence, and this provision, therefore, could prevent U.S. forces from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner,” said the statement of administration policy issued by the OMB.
At that time, the CIA had already stopped using contractors for interrogations after the agency came under fire during the Bush administration for using interrogators for hire.
The final bill that Obama signed into law ultimately reflected the administration’s request. Congress allowed for contractor personnel with proper training and security clearance to be used as linguists, interpreters, report writers and information technology technicians.
It also allowed for contractors to be used in interrogation if they are covered by the same rules governing detainee interrogations as the government personnel performing the same interrogation functions.
Qualified and trained military or civilian Defense Department personnel must oversee a contractor’s performance. Congress also allowed for the prohibition to be waived “if such a move is vital to the U.S. national security interests.”
The Supreme Court on Oct. 4 asked the Obama administration for its views and advice regarding a lawsuit filed on behalf of 26 Iraqis who claim that employees of CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communication’s Titan unit tortured and abused them while they were detained at the Abu Ghraib prison. CACI provided interrogators, while Titan provided interpreters to the U.S. military.
The companies have denied the Iraqis’ claims and are now asking a Virginia federal court of appeals to declare them immune from the lawsuits because their employees performed duties that the military required.
While U.S. courts are dealing with the aftermath of the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal, the hundreds of thousands of military logs from Iraq recently published by WikiLeaks have returned the spotlight to the abuse of Iraqis.
The nearly 400,000 documents, mostly written by soldiers on the ground in Iraq, do not focus on the role of contractors in detainee interrogations, but highlight abuses by Iraqi security forces. They also indicate that U.S. forces turned over detainees to their Iraqi counterparts even after signs of abuse, or continued to interrogate injured detainees after they had been held by Iraqi security forces.
Some of the documents chronicle events from dates after Obama took office. Soon after his presidential election, Obama vowed to change how the U.S. deals with detainees.
The Obama administration said this week it did not turn a “blind eye” to the abuses and that the U.S. troops reported the abuses to the appropriate authorities. The Pentagon condemned WikiLeaks for releasing the documents, warning that they could put U.S. and Iraqi lives at risk. Please the original article at The Hill
Karzai is set to force through a completet ban on private security contractors but will allow for an extension of the deadline for them to leave the country, Al Jazeera’s James Bays reported from Kabul, citing an Afghan source close to the president.
The current deadline for private security contractors to halt their activities is December 17, 2010, but that could now be extended to March 2011.
The substance of the decree is set to remain intact, Bays said, aside from an exception that has already been given in the case of diplomats.
The issue has been extremely contentious. Earlier in the week, Karzai stormed out of a two-and-a-half hour meeting with Nato and UN diplomats.
A statement from the United Nations on Wednesday said that Afghanistan’s international partners supported Karzai’s “principled stand” on the issue.
“… We are committed to implementation of this decree with a fixed timetable and accept that the international community must respond promptly to President Karzai’s long-standing concerns about the conduct of private security companies,” the statement from the office of Staffan De iIstura, the UN special representative to Afghanistan, said.
“Our position is guided by a shared objective with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to advance the security and economic development of Afghanistan within a rule of law framework and a spirit of genuine partnership and mutual support.”
The Afghan government claims that the ban is proof that Karzai “knows the will of the Afghan people,” Al Jazeera’s Bays said.
It reflects widespread perception amongst the country’s citizens that the contractors are responsible for destabilising the country. Private contractors have been extremely controversial and involved in several incidents that have resulted in civilian deaths.
Yet foreign workers in Afghanistan argue that they are essential to allowing them to carry out their work safely.
“Behind the scenes, Western powers will be hoping that during these extra three months, they’ll be able to modify the provisions of the decree,” Bays said.
Meanwhile, an audit report released on Tuesday by Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), concluded that the so-called “civilian surge” to carry out development work and improve the country’s administration.
According to the report, the civilian workers are facing difficulties in building partnerships witgh their military counterparts.
The US government is in the process of increasing the number of its civilian employees in Afghanistan from 320 in January 2009 to around 1500 by January 2012. Most of the civilian personnel work for US agencies. Please see the original story at Al Jazeera
BEIRUT: The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs awarded $200,000 to Lebanon’s Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a US Embassy statement said Tuesday.
The donation was part of a two-to-one matching grant for sub-munitions clearance with the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), which raised $100,000 in private donations in September.
Since August 2006, the United Nations reports that there have been 44 fatalities and 298 injuries from explosive remnants of Lebanon’s summer 2006 war with Israel.
“More than half of the land contaminated by explosive remnants of the 2006 summer war has already been cleared by MAG and other demining organizations, thanks to generous donors, including ATFL and the United States government,” the embassy statement said.
According to the statement, the grant provided by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and the funds raised by the ATFL supported battle area clearance operations by six MAG mine action teams for over one month, including mechanical clearance. These teams cleared more than 112,000 square meters of land.
One mine clearer was killed and several others wounded Monday when cluster bomb fragments exploded amid removal work in south Lebanon. – The Daily Star
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq called for international help on Monday to clear the estimated 20 million mines which pose a death threat in one of the world’s most heavily mined countries after three decades of conflict.
“Removing mines from Iraq is difficult because there are no maps to indicate the mined areas,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said at a government-organised landmines conference in Baghdad.
“That is why we need the effort of donor countries and the experience of the international community,” he told representatives of donors to Iraqi reconstruction since the 2003 US-led invasion, a list which includes the United States, European Union, Japan and the United Nations.
“Iraq is losing the blood of its sons,” he said in reference to deaths by unexploded landmines remaining from the 1980-1988 war against Iran, the 1991 conflict over Kuwait, and the invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
“We are responsible for the security of our people,” Maliki said.
Since 1991, an estimated 8,000 Iraqis, among them 2,000 children, have been killed or maimed by mines and cluster bombs, according to United Nations figures.
Daniel Augstburger of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) highlighted the scale of the problem.
“Iraq is one of the most contaminated landmine- and unexploded-ordnance affected countries of the world,” he said.
“More than 20 million anti-personnel landmines were laid together with unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions,” said Augstburger, head of UNAMI’s liaison assistance mission.
He said 1.6 million Iraqis were affected by landmines, and that 90 percent of contaminated land was agricultural. “This contamination also impacts on numerous development projects, including oil and gas,” said Augstburger.
Iraq’s national security adviser Safa al-Shekh said “the government cares about the issue and knows how serious it is. It is a huge challenge.”
Unexploded mines “can be used by terrorists” at a time when security forces are trying to put down an Al-Qaeda insurgency and sectarian strife, the Iraqi official said.
“Iraq needs international support to remove mines,” Shekh said.
“We are looking for the help of the international community to first carry out a survey and then remove them, and also provide the required equipment,” he added.
Shekh said the “priorities include clearing areas with the greatest impact on the lives of people, and those with strategic and investment projects.”
Iraq’s army banned civilian contractors from mine-clearing activities in December 2008, citing security concerns after unconfirmed claims that villagers had been digging up unexploded and selling them to insurgents.
Last year, the United Nations said Iraq’s decision was seriously damaging the war-battered nation’s pledge to rid itself of the deadly munitions.
Iraq signed up to the Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in 2008, requiring it to clear all areas littered with such ordnance by 2018, but the UN warns that the target is in jeopardy.
Abboud Qanbar, a defence ministry official, told the conference that the government had carried out limited surveys and cleared mines in 21 locations, but did not specify where. Please see the original story here
The chaos of war enveloped British and American security contractors, as well as coalition and local troops, according to documents released by Wikileaks.
Most of the dead were Iraqi drivers, guards and other employees.
But it is a handful of American contractors whose actions will come under further scrutiny.
In one incident, employees of a firm called Custer Battles fired at Iraqi security forces at a checkpoint, into a crowded minibus and at the tyres of a car that came too close to their own, all in one spree. No action was taken against them after they paid some compensation money to those affected.
Blackwater, the company which earned notoriety after shooting dead 17 civilians in a square in Baghdad in 2007, is reported to have been seen “firing indiscriminately” in an incident the year before. In another case the same year, Blackwater security guards killed two civilians in a taxi “travelling at high speed”, causing demonstrations.
In some cases, security contractors were themselves shot as a result of mistaken identity. Sometimes they just thought they were being shot at: one report, also from 2006, describes a particularly chaotic incident involving three large SUVs from the Triple Canopy security company.
They were driving “at high speed” down a highway and tried to force a local vehicle out of their way by “bumping” it. It veered off but skidded back into the third SUV, sending it off the road.
The security guards then thought they were under attack, and tried to destroy the damaged vehicle by throwing a grenade at it, setting it on fire and firing 40 rounds into it. A second local vehicle that was approaching in the other direction was then also fired on.
Despite the force employed, the only injury recorded is a minor graze to the driver of the second car.
By Robert Brodsky email@example.com October 25, 2010
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to back down on his pledge to disband all private security contractors operating in the country, but signaled during a weekend meeting that he could be open to a potential compromise.
Karzai told foreign representatives, including Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to provide the Afghan government with a list of major projects that need protection, along with their security requirements, so that “appropriate measures” could be taken. It was not immediately clear if those measures would include an exemption for providing private security, and if so, how such a decision would be made.
In mid-August, Karzai issued an order to remove all private security contractors from Afghanistan by Dec. 17, citing incidents of violence and questionable behavior by foreign guards. Afghanistan’s police and security forces — many of whom have been described as poorly trained and corrupt — would provide protection. Security firms working at foreign embassies and military bases would be exempt from removal.
U.S. officials said they share Karzai’s goal, but argued his time frame is overly ambitious and could disrupt ongoing development projects.
The Washington Post reported last week that U.S.-backed development firms have begun shutting down or suspending multimillion-dollar projects because of the ban.
“We don’t think it’s had an impact at this time, and we certainly do not want to see development projects that are important to Afghanistan’s future affected by this decree,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said on Friday.
Many firms working for the U.S. Agency for International Development already have submitted contingency plans outlining how they will to respond to the order, according to Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a contractor trade association with member companies operating in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The association that represents the stability operations industry, formerly called IPOA, is now the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA). The new name and logo are designed to better reflect the broad industry that provides vital services and support to the international community in conflict, post-conflict and disaster relief operations.
“From the beginning, our goal has been to make international stability operations more successful by increasing accountability, ethics and standards within the industry,” said ISOA’s President, Doug Brooks. “For almost ten years we have grown as the ethical core of a unique and valuable international resource. Our new name reflects that evolution as an association and as an industry, and positions us for the future.”
ISOA’s Director, J.J. Messner, unveiled the organization’s new name and logo at the IPOA 2010 Annual Summit in Washington, D.C. last week. The change is the result of an association-wide vote and is designed to better represent the broad mission and clientele of the industry as a whole.
The announcement of the ISOA name is part of a progressive effort to ensure the support and participation of all key actors in the Stability Operations Industry, including private firms, non-governmental organizations, and governmental and commercial clients.
ISOA’s mission is to serve as a valued and trusted association representing ethical and professional organizations partnering in stability, support and development efforts worldwide. The Association develops and implements ethical standards that enhance the missions of clients and raise the quality of the larger industry. ISOA does advocacy for the interests and values of the membership using a proactive, unified industry voice, and engages in education and outreach regarding the industry and the capabilities of the association’s membership.
|Contact: Doug Brooks|
|International Stability Operations Association|
|Tel: +1 (202) 464-0721|
A US drone flies over Afghanistan. A new poll has found deep dissatisfaction among Pakistanis over the use of drone attacks to target militants in tribal areas, sometimes resulting in civilian casualties. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
In Norse mythology, Odin is the one-eyed god of war and death who leads a noisy band of slain warriors across the sky. Legend has it that he left his other eye in the well of wisdom so that he could see and knows everything.
In August 2006, General Richard A Cody of the US Army created an aviation battalion that took the Norse name as an acronym for “Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralise”. Equipped with Warrior Alpha drones, manufactured by General Atomics, the unit patrolled the Iraqi skies searching for insurgents planting roadside bombs. Following close behind were C-12 Cessna planes with two Army Reserve pilots and two analysts equipped with a high-tech gadget built by Textron known as the One System Remote Video Transceivers (OSRVTs).
The Iraq war logs – the massive cache of secret Pentagon documents recently released by WikiLeaks – reveal hundreds of documents that provide a snapshot of what task force Odin and a variety of high-tech drones achieved.
Despite promising early results in simple tasks like assisting the Pentagon to track and kill militants in the middle of battle, the new WikiLeaks documents also show that the drones are surprisingly limited in complex surveillance tasks that are needed to glean greater knowledge, let alone win the larger war for hearts and minds.
Early experiments proved to be very seductive. For example, on 10 March 2007, task force Odin requested Redwolf, an aerial weapons team, to fire upon a groups of Iraqis gathered in Diyala province whom they believed to be planting roadside bombs, killing 17 people. The strike was called in as part of a six-month offensive in the summer of 2007 to seize control of Diyala province from al-Qaida in Iraq, which had taken control of Baqubah, naming it the capital of their “Islamic state of Iraq”.
Four weeks later, on 7 April 2007, Odin asked for three Hellfire missiles to be fired at a group of about 60 Iraqis in Diyala province, killing 28 people. The group was described as wearing civilian clothes and carrying rocket-propelled grenades.
The military insignia of the US Army’s drone surveillance outfit, Task Force OdinA jubilant General Cody reported that task force Odin was a success. “Any time you can see the enemy and he doesn’t know you’re watching is a good thing – but not good enough,” he announced at a meeting of the Army Aviation Association of America in May 2007. “You also must be able to do something about it and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
The idea of using unmanned aircraft to lead battles was still very much an experiment at the time. Despite the fact that Nek Mohammed, a Pakistani Taliban leader, had been killed in a drone strike in June 2004, and two other strikes had been recorded in 2005, the use of drones was limited to the US Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency, which refused to share their Predator drones with the other branches of the military.
The Army wasn’t the first to experiment. The new WikiLeaks documents show that the US Marines tested the tiny 2.3kg Dragon Eye drone over Fallujah as far back as September 2004. Unfortunately, the plane was easily shot down by Iraqis on several occasions. WikiLeaks also show that the US Navy also tried a similar experiment with the Silver Fox drone in Anbar province, Iraq, but many of the early flights ended in crashes.