Wired’s Danger Room November 21, 2012
Inside a compound in Kabul called Camp Integrity, the Pentagon stations a small group of officers to oversee the U.S. military’s various operations to curb the spread of Afghanistan’s cash crops of heroin and marijuana, which help line the Taliban’s pockets. Only Camp Integrity isn’t a U.S. military base at all. It’s the 10-acre Afghanistan headquarters of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.
Those officers work for an obscure Pentagon agency called the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office, or CNTPO. Quietly, it’s grown into one of the biggest dispensers of cash for private security contractors in the entire U.S. government: One pile of contracts last year from CNTPO was worth more than $3 billion. And it sees a future for itself in Afghanistan over the long haul.
Earlier this month, a U.S. government solicitation sought to hire a security firm to help CNTPO “maintain a basic, operational support cell” in Kabul. Army Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, explains that “cell” doesn’t kick in the doors of any Afghan narco-kingpins. It handles the more mundane tasks of overseeing the contracts of the Pentagon’s counter-narcotics programs, from “training and linguists, and [providing] supplies, such as vehicles and equipment.” The solicitation, however, indicates those services aren’t going anywhere: When all the options are exercised, the contract extends through September 29, 2015, over a year past the date when Afghan soldiers and cops are supposed to take over the war. And the “government preferred location” to base CNTPO? Camp Integrity.
The envisioned Pentagon counter-narco-terrorism staff is pretty small: only two to four personnel. But protecting them at Camp Integrity is serious business. The November 6 solicitation calls for a security firm that can “provide a secure armory and weapons maintenance service, including the ability to check-in and check-out weapons and ammunition,” particularly 9 mm pistols and M4 rifles; and to provide “secure armored” transportation to the CNTPO team — primarily “in and around Kabul, but could include some remote locations.”
CNTPO has a longstanding relationship with Blackwater, the infamous security firm that is now known as Academi. In 2009, it gave Blackwater a contract to train Afghan police, and company employees used that contract to requisition guns from the U.S. military for their private use. Although that contract was ultimately taken out of CNTPO’s hands, the office’s relationship with Academi/Blackwater endures. Last year, Academi told Danger Room it has a contract with CNTPO, worth an undisclosed amount, to provide “all-source intelligence analyst support and material procurement” for Afghanistan. An Academi spokeswoman, Kelley Gannon, declined to comment on Academi’s relationship with CNTPO, or whether it’ll bid on the new contract
The New York Times November 25, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan — For the replacement Afghan security guards, their new posting — an established traffic checkpoint in a heavily guarded Western enclave in Kabul — would seem to be a decent one, other than the fact that three of their predecessors had just been killed by a Taliban suicide bomber.
The site itself told the story: the blast crater from the attack, on Wednesday, had been covered by two rows of green sandbags stacked 10 feet high, and ball bearings from the bomber’s vest pockmarked the neighboring walls. An excavator shoved dirt loosened from the blast into tidy mounds along the edges of the street, which sits a few blocks from the American Embassy in the city’s Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood.
The new arrivals, private guards who work for a foreign security contractor, forlornly bear the assignment. Among the dead were friends and co-workers, including a 36-year-old guard named Shamsuddin, a father of two, and Mohammed Homayoun, 28.
The replacements are jittery, clutching their assault rifles as a supervisor stands nearby, scanning the street.
“They’re deeply hurt because they lost their colleagues,” said the supervisor, who would not give his name. “They were like members of the same family.”
The guards may well have the most thankless job in Afghanistan, serving as the first line of defense against bombings and bullets meant for Westerners and high-profile Afghan government officials. In countless cases, such private security guards are the ones killed by thwarted attacks. On Wednesday, the bomber detonated his vest after the guards demanded his identification, police officials said.
Private security companies have had a troubled and controversial history in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has called for them to be banned, concerned that the armed companies, about 50 in all employing about 40,000 guards across the country, were becoming de facto militias. The president eventually made exceptions for embassies and international organizations, but required the firms to be licensed. Mr. Karzai remains committed to handing over security to Afghan government forces.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) November 26, 2012
Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin R. Ebbert, 32, of Arcata, Calif., died while supporting stability operations in southern Afghanistan, according to a Department of Defense news release.
Ebbert was a Special Warfare Operator assigned to a SEAL team out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our teammate who has made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Capt. Robert Smith, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group Two. “We have lost a courageous patriot who selflessly answered our nation’s call to defend freedom and protect us from terrorism.”
The private contractor guard force is owned by a foreign company with a long record of botched security operations from Afghanistan to London to Oak Ridge, Tennessee
The company is now wholly-owned by foreign security firm G4S, the same company that won notoriety on 9/11 when its Argenbright Security division ran passenger checkpoints at Dulles and Newark airports where hijackers boarded planes. Its performance on 9/11 was the major political impetus Congress used to federalize all airline security and create the Transportation Security Administration.
G4S was involved in a major scandal when its employees took part in bizarre hazing rituals when supposedly guarding State Department employees in Afghanistan. More recently, the company so botched security preparations for the London Olympics, the British government was forced to call in the army at the last minute.
by Joseph Trento at The DC Bureau November 14, 2012
Aiken, S.C. – Tons of weapons grade plutonium and other nuclear materials, a target for terrorists, are not being properly protected by the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Department of Energy’s sprawling Savannah River Site, according to security consultants and U.S. counterintelligence officials.
A secret security review underway at DOE and other government agencies after an elderly nun last summer breached a NNSA bomb-grade-uranium facility at the Oak Ridge Tennessee Y12 area reveals “harrowing problems in site management and control at other DOE sites,” said a Homeland Security official who requested anonymity. The official said that the Savannah River Site was of concern because “SRS does not have the staffing or the facilities to protect the huge amounts of plutonium that have been brought to SRS in recent years.”
SRS has one of the greatest concentrations in the world of radioactive material. In one old reactor building – the K Area Material Storage (KAMS) facility – protected by the same contractors that botched security at Oakridge, there is enough weapons grade plutonium to destroy the world multiple times. Here plutonium in its purest form can be found by the ton.
by David Isenberg at Huffington Post November 13, 2012
David Isenberg is the author of the book Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq and blogs at The PMSC Observer. He is a senior analyst at Wikistrat and a Navy veteran.
While it’s only one among many factors bedeviling Afghanistan, its substantial private-security contracting industry warrants attention. It’s made up of tens of thousands of Afghan employees, mostly armed guards.
Bear in mind that 2014 is the deadline for Afghanistan assuming responsibility for its own security. This is a date the whole world has an interest in because either Afghanistan will be a more or less stable country — or it will lapse back into the chaotic and destabilized state it was after the Soviets left in 1989.
We all recall how that turned out.
The Afghan government and the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are transferring private security company (PSC) operations to the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), a new Afghan government force.
But substantial uncertainty, to put it politely, and skepticism — to put it more bluntly – persists over APPF’s ability to handle the job. Even more importantly, how it plans to absorb the commanders and former fighters who currently provide the bulk of PSC workforces.
This morning, the Pentagon announced the death of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who was killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Bennett, 26, of Glendora, Calif., died Nov. 10, 2012, in Sperwan Gar, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when he encountered an improvised explosive device during combat operations.
Unit records indicate Staff Sgt. Bennett entered in the Army in November 2004, and attended Initial Army Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Advanced Individual Training (AIT) was at both Redstone Arsenal, Al. and Eglin Air Force Base, Fl.
His AIT training was for that of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Specialist.
Staff Sgt. Bennett arrived at JBLM in February 2009, was assigned to the 53rd Ordnance Company (EOD), 3rd Ordnance Battalion (EOD).
Kantor died as a result of a gunshot wound suffered in combat in southern Afghanistan, according to a press release from Naval Special Warfare Group Two.
Kantor was assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group Two which is based in Virginia Beach.
WAVY TV November 3, 2012
ZABUL, AFGHANISTAN – A locally based Navy SEAL supporting Operation Enduring Freedom was killed in Afghanistan Saturday.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Kantor, 22, of Gillette, N.J., died supporting stability operations in Zabul, Afghanistan, according to news release from the Department of Defense.
Kantor was assigned to the Naval Special Warfare unit based in Virginia Beach.
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room November 2, 2012
Just days after an inspector general report revealed that a giant Pentagon contractor performed “unsatisfactory” work in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force awarded the firm another multimillion-dollar pot of cash.
Virginia’s DynCorp, which performs everything from private security to construction for the U.S. military, has re-upped with Air Force to help pilots learn basic flying skills on the T-6A/B Texan II aircraft, a training plane. The deal is only the latest between DynCorp and the Air Force on the Texan II: In June, the Air Force Materiel Command gave the company a deal worth nearly $55 million for training services. The latest one, announced late Thursday, is worth another $72.8 million, and lasts through October 2013.
But the Air Force’s lucrative vote of confidence in DynCorp comes not even a week after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction blasted the company for performing “unsatisfactory” construction work at an Afghan Army base in Kunduz. The base was “at risk of structural failure” when the watchdogs initially inspected, but the Army Corps of Engineers chose to settle DynCorp’s contract, a move that awarded the company “$70.8 million on the construction contracts and releas[ed] it from any further liabilities and warranty obligation.” (.pdf)
A DynCorp spokeswoman, Ashley Burke, told Bloomberg News that the company disputed the special inspector general’s findings. For its part, the special inspector general took to tweeting photographs of what it called “DynCorp’s failed work at #Afghan #Army Base in #Kunduz.
SIGAR Audit 13-1 October 31, 2012
Afghanistan National Security Forces Facilities:
Concerns with Funding, Oversight and Sustainability for Operation and Maintenance
WHAT SIGAR FOUND
The Afghan government will likely be incapable of fully sustaining ANSF facilities after the transition in 2014 and the expected decrease in U.S. and coalition support. The Afghan government’s challenges in assuming O&M responsibilities include a lack of sufficient numbers and quality of personnel, as well as undeveloped budgeting, procurement, and logistics systems.
As of June 1, 2012, the Afghan government had filled less than40 percent of authorized O&M positions. U.S. officials cited salary discrepancies between these ANSF positions and private sector jobs, such as contract positions, as a prime factor in the lagging recruitment efforts.
The ANSF lacks personnel with the technical skills required to operate and maintain critical facilities, such as water supply, waste water treatment, and power generation.
The Ministry of Defense’s procurement process is unable to provide the Afghan army with O&M supplies in a timely manner.
The Ministry of Interior did not make its first budget allocation for O&M at police sites until March 2012.
As of August 1, 2012, 25 sites had started the transition process. However, USACE had not yet developed a plan and procedures
This update reports DoD contractor personnel numbers in theater and outlines DoD efforts to improve management of contractors accompanying U.S. forces. It covers DoD contractor personnel deployed in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Iraq, and the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).
In 4th quarter FY 2012, USCENTCOM reported approximately 137,000 contractor personnel working for the DoD in the USCENTCOM AOR. This total reflects no change from the previous quarter. The number of contractors outside of Afghanistan and Iraq make up about 13.7% of the total contractor population in the USCENTCOM AOR. A breakdown of DoD contractor personnel is provided below:
A breakdown of DoD contractor personnel is provided below:
DoD Contractor Personnel in the USCENTCOM AOR
|Total Contractors||U.S. Citizens||Third Country Nationals||Local & Host Country Nationals|
|Afghanistan Only||109, 564||31,814||39,480||38,270|
|Other USCENTCOM Locations||18,843||8,764||9,297||782|
*Includes DoD contractors supporting U.S. Mission Iraq and/or Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq
The distribution of contractors in Afghanistan by contracting activity are:
|Theater Support – Afghanistan:||16,973||(15%)|
|U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:||7,647||(7%)|
|*Includes Defense Logistics Agency, Army Materiel Command, Air Force External and Systems Support contracts, Special Operations Command and INSCOM.|
OEF Contractor Posture Highlights:
There are currently approximately 109.5K DoD contractors in Afghanistan. The overall contractor footprint has decreased 3.7% from the 3rd quarter FY12.
The contractor to military ratio in Afghanistan is 1.13 to 1 (based on 84.2K military).
Local Nationals make up 34.9% of the DoD contracted workforce in Afghanistan.
Contractor Posture Highlights:
The total number of contractors supporting the U.S. Government in Iraq (DoD+DoS) is now approximately 13.5K, which meets the USG goal of reducing the contractor population at the end of FY 2012.
The Department of Defense and Department of State continue to refine the requirements for contract support. Some contractor personnel employed under DoD contracts are supporting State Department and other civilian activities under the Chief of Mission, Iraq. These DoD contractors are provided on a reimbursable basis.
General Data on DoD Private Security Contractor Personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan
USCENTCOM reports, as of 4th quarter FY 2012, the following distribution of private security contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq:
|Total*||U.S. Citizens||Third Country National||Local & Host Country National|
|DoD PSCs in Afghanistan||18,914||2,014||1,437||15,413|
|DoD PSCs in Iraq||2,116||102||1,873||191|
*These numbers include most subcontractors and service contractors hired by prime contractors under DoD contracts. They include both armed and unarmed contractors. They do not include PSCs working under DoS and USAID contracts.
October 25, 2012
Voluntary Today, Involuntary Tomorrow
Another Successful Flush by Wackenhut G4S
Will the last Ronco Consulting Corporation Employee out please close the lid ?
Rueters October 21, 2012
* Iraq, Afghan withdrawal may mean leaner times for contractors
* Shift to guarding private sector’s oil fields and mines
* Some see big shakeout in private security industry
* U.N. member states wary of private security forces
By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – On a rooftop terrace blocks from the White House, a collection of former soldiers and intelligence officers, executives and contractors drink to the international private security industry.
The past decade – particularly the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – provided rich pickings for firms providing private armed guards, drivers and other services that would once have been performed by uniformed soldiers.
But as the conflicts that helped create the modern industry wind down, firms are having to adapt to survive. They must also, industry insiders say, work to banish the controversial image of mercenary “dogs of war” that bedevil many firms, particularly in Iraq.
“This industry has always gone up and down,” Doug Brooks, president of the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA), told Reuters on the sidelines of its annual conference in Washington. “What we’re seeing now is that it is becoming much more mature – and much more responsible.”
The free-for-all atmosphere that pervaded the industry, particularly in the early years of the war in Iraq, insiders say, appears gone for good. A string of high profile incidents – often involving armed private guards firing on sometimes unarmed Iraqis – trashed the reputation of firms such as Blackwater, a Virginia-based firm since renamed several times, as well as the wider industry.
Members of the ISOA – which include some but not all of the major contracting firms as well as smaller players – subscribe to a code of conduct that they say helps identify responsible firms.
Despite these efforts, industry insiders and other observers say quality remains mixed. Some firms providing armed guards for merchant ships passing through the Somali pirate-infested Indian Ocean, for example, only hire elite personnel who have served in the Marines or special forces. Others, however, have a reputation for being less discriminating and for unreliable staff and weapons.
Khaama Press October 12, 2012
A local security official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the two individuals were kidnapped in Syedabad district.
The source further added the two individuals including a Canadian Man and an American woman were civilians.
They were kidnapped while they were on their way from eastern Ghazni province to capital Kabul.
No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.
Afghan government officials yet to comment regarding the report.
There are more contractors than troops in Afghanistan
Time’s Battleland October 9, 2012 by David Isenberg
U.S. military forces may be out of Iraq, but the unsung and unrecognized part of America’s modern military establishment is still serving and sacrificing — the role played by private military and security contractors.
That their work is dangerous can be seen by looking at the headlines. Just last Thursday a car bomb hit a private security convoy in Baghdad, killing four people and wounding at least nine others.
That is hardly an isolated incident. According to the most recent Department of Labor statistics there were at least 121 civilian contractor deaths filed on in the third quarter of 2012. Of course, these included countries besides Iraq.
As the Defense Base Act Compensation blog notes, “these numbers are not an accurate accounting of Contractor Casualties as many injuries and deaths are not reported as Defense Base Act Claims. Also, many of these injuries will become deaths due to the Defense Base Act Insurance Companies denial of medical benefits.” To date, a total of 90,680 claims have been filed since September 1, 2001.
How many contractors are now serving on behalf of the U.S. government?
According to the most recent quarterly contractor census report issued by the U.S. Central Command, which includes both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 18 other countries stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan, there were approximately 137,000 contractors working for the Pentagon in its region. There were 113,376 in Afghanistan and 7,336 in Iraq. Of that total, 40,110 were U.S. citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the U.S. not the country in which they were working.
Put simply, there are more contractors than U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
These numbers, however, do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the U.S. State Department. The CENTCOM report says that “of FY 2012, the USG contractor population in Iraq will be approximately 13.5K. Roughly half of these contractors are employed under Department of State contracts.”
While most of the public now understands that contractors perform a lot of missions once done by troops – peeling potatoes, pulling security — they may not realize just how dependent on them the Pentagon has become.