WASHINGTON — The chairmen of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting decried on Monday a federal system that has allowed contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan to commit fraud — then get hired again and again.
“For the 200,000 people employed by contractors to provide support and capability in Iraq and Afghanistan, accountability is too often absent, diluted, delayed, or avoided,” Republican co-chair Chris Shays, formerly a longtime congressman from Connecticut, said while calling to order a hearing of the commission Monday.
There are so many barriers to suspending or banning contractors with violations that “untrustworthy contractors can continue profiting from government work, responsible businesses may be denied opportunities, and costs to taxpayers can climb,” Shays said in a statement co-authored with his Democratic co-chair, Michael Thibault, formerly the deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency.
The commission last week issued a blistering interim report to Congress: “At What Risk? Correcting over-reliance on contractors in contingency operations,” which concluded that “misspent dollars run into the tens of billions” out of the nearly $200 billion spent on contracts and grants since 2002 to support military, reconstruction and other U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And that could well be an understatement, the commission noted, because “it might not take full account of ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, and criminal behavior and blatant corruption by both government and contractor employees.”
Security-cleared professionals based in the Middle East earned on average $141,166 (with bonuses, overtime and danger pay) a decrease from the $148,427 earned a year ago, according to a new survey from ClearanceJobs.com.
In the two war zones, salaries for security-cleared professionals in Iraq are $82,144, slightly ahead of their counterparts in Afghanistan at $81,501.
Average base salaries in the Middle East are $79,732, and 21 percent higher than European based security-cleared professionals who earn $65,947.
However, total compensation in the Middle East is nearly 50 percent higher than Europe when accounting for bonuses, overtime and danger pay. Middle East-based security-cleared professionals earn on average an additional $61,434 or 77 percent of their salaries in other compensation, while Europe-based professionals earn an additional $28,479 or 43 percent of their salaries.
Government contractors report the highest average wages within those countries, while military personnel report the lowest.
Security-cleared professionals working in Iraq are very satisfied with their salaries. Seventy percent of respondents are satisfied, while 19 percent are dissatisfied. This compares to 65 percent of Afghanistan-based security-cleared professionals who are satisfied and 22 percent who feel the opposite.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Feb. 28, 2011) – Insurgents removed two Afghan contractors from their automobiles and executed them on the spot in a rural region of Kandahar province’s Panjwai district Feb. 25.
Coalition forces in the area met with village elders in Panjwai shortly after hearing numerous shots fired Friday afternoon. Elders and children then told the coalition officials about the execution of the two truck drivers. Their vehicles were located later that day.
“They stopped the trucks with machine guns,” said one village elder, “and removed the men from their vehicles. And then they shot them in the head there beside the vehicles.”
PESHAWAR — A court in northwest Pakistan Monday rejected the bail application of an American said to have been working for a private security company who is accused of overstaying his visa.
“The bail application of Aaron Mark DeHaven has been rejected because he had no legal documents,” public prosecutor Javed Ali said in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States are already strained over the arrest last month of a CIA contractor identified as Raymond Davis, who has been charged with murder for shooting dead two men in Lahore.
The United States, insisting that Davis has diplomatic immunity, is demanding his release.
DeHaven was taken into custody on Friday from the Falcon Complex, a residential area in Peshawar, close to the lawless tribal belt near the Afghan border.
Police say his Pakistani visa had expired in October, and that he was working for security contractor Catalyst Services, providing security and accommodation to foreigners working on development projects in the region.
People with PTSD can have “heightened levels of physiological arousal,” such as elevated heart rates even though they are not in real danger, Baldwin said.
“Because they feel unsafe, they’re more likely to be triggered into a defense state that might get them out of a traumatic experience that isn’t really happening,” he said.
“During this type of event, you think that your life or others’ lives are in danger,” Baldwin said. “You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.”
Danny Fitzsimons avoids death penalty and lawyers press for reduced sentence to be served in UK
Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s director, said: “If G4S had done the proper checks and risk assessments when Danny applied to work with them, they would have quickly seen that he was suffering from serious PTSD, a consequence of loyally serving his country.
A British former soldier has been jailed for 20 years by the supreme court of Iraq for the murder of two fellow security contractors, becoming the first westerner to be convicted in the country since the 2003 invasion.
The family of 31-year-old Danny Fitzsimons expressed relief that he had escaped the death penalty and asked Iraqi authorities and the UK government to ensure his safety in prison. Defence lawyers indicated they would try to get the term reduced.
Before his conviction and sentencing in a hearing lasting less than 30 minutes, there had been talks over whether he could be transferred to a British prison. Fitzsimons’s family and campaigners fear for his safety if he is moved outside Baghdad’s Green Zone to the city’s Rusafa prison.
Fitzsimons, from Middleton, Manchester, was accused of shooting fellow Briton Paul McGuigan and Australian Darren Hoare in Baghdad, colleagues with the UK security firm ArmorGroup, part of G4S, after an argument in the Green Zone in August 2009. He was also accused of wounding an Iraqi guard while fleeing. The incident happened within 36 hours of his arrival in the city. He had worked in the country before.
Fitzsimons admitted shooting the men but claimed it was in self-defence. The colleagues had been out drinking and the other two tried to kill him during an altercation, he said. Fitzsimons claimed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As he was led from the courtroom by Iraqi guards, he told reporters he was happy with the sentence. Asked whether he thought the trial had been fair, he said: “No.”
In an interview before the sentence, he told the Independent he had been treated “like a dog” in court.
Fitzsimons’s family and his British lawyer, John Tripple, who attended a court session last week, were not present at the hearing. His Iraqi lawyer, Tariq Harb, said: “This is a very good sentence. I saved him from the gallows.”
He told the Guardian he would appeal within 30 days. “I expect the sentence can be lightened to 15 years. The Iraqi law is independent and it is very fair.” Please read the entire story here
A Canadian national is missing in Afghanistan, Canadian officials have said.
A spokeswoman for the department of foreign affairs in Ottawa said the man – named as Colin Rutherford – had travelled to Afghanistan as a tourist.
The confirmation followed a statement by the Taliban saying they had captured someone from Canada.
The Taliban said they had detained the man in Ghazni province, south-west of the capital Kabul, for spying.
A spokesman said he was still being held and that “documents in his possession revealed his clandestine intelligence activities”. The statement said the Taliban would soon release a video of him.
Two French television journalists were kidnapped by the Taliban north-east of Kabul more than a year ago and are still being held. Please see the original here
“They are from Africa, and speak French and other languages,” said Ali al-Essawi, the Libyan ambassador to India who resigned this week. Libyan police in the town of Benghazi who have turned against the Gadhafi regime have reportedly captured foreign soldiers who are “black, spoke French and were identified by wearing yellow hats” stated an ABC News report. According to varying reports, the foreign mercenaries employed by Gadhafi may be from Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Mali, Sudan and, even Eastern Europe. So how does one go about hiring mercenaries on such short notice these days?
It helps to have friends in the right places. Al-Jazeera has reported that advertisements have been appearing in Guinea and Nigeria offering would-be mercenaries up to $2,000 to come to Gadhafi’s aid. The reports are vague so far, but if the Libyan strongman has indeed been shopping for mercenaries, West Africa would be a good place to start. Recent conflicts in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast have generated a steady supply of unemployed ex-fighters willing to move from conflict to conflict for the right price. Foreign mercenaries, often paid in diamonds, kept Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war going for years. U.N. peacekeepers have reported that the electorally ousted but defiant Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has brought in mercenaries from Liberia to aid him in his conflict against internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara.
RIGHT FOR AMERICA, RIGHT FOR PAKISTAN
The standoff between the United States and Pakistan over the arrest of contractor Raymond Davis is not going to be solved unless both nations take a step into that “no man’s land” of trust and honesty.
There is no question about diplomatic status, this was a clumsy mistake made by State Department officials in Washington who had little or no understanding of the legal and political issues at stake. Recent admissions that Davis is “CIA” mean nothing. Nobody knows what “CIA” means anymore, not since the wave of privatization that has spread to many of America’s critical security functions.
Were America honest in this, it would admit the truth. The CIA and State Department leaders had no idea Davis was in Pakistan or what he was doing. During the Bush era, duplicate lines of command were created that are still in place. Projects are “green lighted” and funded without oversight, projects that were and are not in the best interests of the United States. Evidence thus far gives a strong indication that Raymond Davis was employed in such a capacity. Moreover, he was obviously ill suited for his task and is dangerously unstable. There is little question of this anymore
afrol News, 26 February 2011 – Protesters in Libya insist that “African mercenaries,” mostly from Niger and Chad, are used against them. Other sources deny this, fearing a possible racist origin of the claim.
Since the beginning of the Libyan revolution, protesters from all over the country have reported of extreme force being used against them by the Libyan army, police forces, plain-cloth regime agents, snipers and – more and more – “black African mercenaries”. The last group increasingly is described as the most brutal group.
Protesters are publishing photos and videos on the internet, with a strong message that “this documents the use of African mercenaries.” Some of these videos indeed show armed groups of dark-skinned persons, with and without uniforms.
Mercenaries are in the headlines again, this week in the madness and insanity that is Qaddafi’s Libya.
My initial thoughts when I first saw this was that the north African nutjob had a cadre of Eastern European professional soldiers as a sort of Varangian Guard, but as it turns out Qaddafi’s personal foreign legion are basically a pack of thugs from Zimbabwe
If these guys are anything like any and every African soldier I ever trained, worked with or encountered on the battlefield; they’ve all got malaria, half of them can’t read or write, and their only understanding of the Law of Land Warfare is that they’re breaking every law in the book. No matter how hard you train them, in contact they revert to the “spray-and-pray” school of gunfighting and the safest place to be when they’re shooting at you is right out in the middle of the street because they can’t hit the broad side of a barn from the inside.
The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.
The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.
“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.” Please read the entire article here
By Riaz Khan Associated Press at Forbes February 26, 2011
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — An American detained for visa violations in northwest Pakistan is a contractor who had worked on a U.S.-funded construction project in the region, a security official said Saturday.
DeHaven appeared in court Saturday in Peshawar, and a judge ordered him detained for 14 more days while police investigate him.
The security official said DeHaven was a contractor who had worked on at least one construction contract for the U.S. government in the region, declining to give more details.
He said DeHaven is a 34-year-old from Virginia who is married to a Pakistani woman. The official asked that his name not be published because of the sensitivity of the case. Please see the original here
AUSTRALIAN families, friends and communities have buried 23 soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002. The Courier Mail Sunday Mail Australia
But there is an even sadder and often silent statistic that is forgotten – the number of soldiers, sailors and airmen and women who have ended their lives for reasons that don’t command a full military funeral or public acknowledgement by politicians.
New Defence figures show that 31 enlisted Defence personnel have, or are believed to have, committed suicide since 2005.
Of those, 10 were in Queensland the highest among the states, with seven suspected suicide cases in NSW and six in the ACT.
The suspected suicide deaths of two other Queensland soldiers earlier this year are also being investigated by the coroner but are not included in the figures at this stage.
“Look at Vietnam. The number killed was far outweighed by the number who took their own life in the years after their service,” Mr Jarratt said.
“We call it the invisible wounds of war, people dying not in combat but as a result of combat, years later.”
Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Earlier, two rockets targeted central parts of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul in an attack that left no casualties and caused damages to only a few buildings, officials say.
The US Bagram base is currently occupied by the 5th Aviation Battalion (Assault), and 6th Aviation Battalion (GSAB) of the US Army, with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing of the US Air Force and other US Army, Navy , Marine Corps, and Coast Guard units, and their coalition partners.
Bagram, which is home to some 24,000 military personnel and civilian contractors, is located in an area of more than 5,000 acres (2,000-hectares).