Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Afghan policeman kills three British soldiers


An Afghan policeman shot dead three British soldiers at a checkpoint in southern Helmand province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, the latest in a chain of increasingly frequent rogue killings.

A fourth British soldier was also injured, provincial governor spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said of the attack, which could further erode trust between NATO and the Afghan forces they train before most foreign combat troops leave in 2014.

The soldiers were serving with an Afghan police advisory team and were killed after a meeting at the checkpoint at Nahr-e-Saraj in Helmand, Britain’s Defence Ministry said on Monday.

The assailant was injured and detained, a Defence Ministry spokesman said

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July 2, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Suicide Attack Hits Group of NATO and Afghan Troops

New York Times  April 4, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber steered his motorcycle into a group of American soldiers and Afghan police officers in a northern Afghan city and detonated his explosives on Wednesday, killing as many as 15 people, including officers and civilians, Afghan officials said.

The officials said American service members were also among the casualties. But there was no immediate comment on the attack from the NATO-led coalition, which said it was trying to determine what had taken place in Maimana, the capital of Faryab Province, where the attack occurred.

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April 4, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Suspected Afghan police shoot dead 1 Albanian soldier

Update:  An Albanian soldier was killed, and three other troops were injured, including two Albanians and an American, according to the provincial government in Kandahar, where the shooting took place.

Winnipeg Free Press  February 20, 2012

TIRANA, Albania – Suspected Afghan police opened fire on Albanian and other foreign troops in the war-wracked country’s south Monday, killing two Albanian soldiers and prompting the arrest of 11 Afghan policemen, authorities said.

The deaths were the first for Albanian troops in Afghanistan. Another international soldier was wounded.

The shootings appeared to be the latest in a growing number of attacks by Afghan police or army soldiers on foreign forces, a trend that has raised concerns about the vetting of Afghan recruits and threatened the international military commitment to the country. Last month, France suspended its training program and warned it may withdraw its forces a year ahead of schedule after an Afghan soldier shot and killed four French soldiers.

Monday’s shooting occurred in the village of Robat, in the southern district of Spin Boldak near the Pakistani border, Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq said. The troops were accompanying a USAID team for a meeting about opening two schools and a health cente, Albania’s defence ministry said.

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February 20, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues, USAID | , , | Leave a comment

Afghans Purge Hundreds of Top Cops as NATO Cheers

by Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room

Over the past year, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior has fired hundreds of leading police officials, according to a forthcoming NATO report on the Afghan security services. And that purge is just the beginning, even as police ranks are scheduled to expand.

As of November, the newly-appointed Afghan interior minister, Bismullah Mohammadi, has “changed 32 top ministerial leaders and many top provincial leaders” in his first four months on the job, according to a report on institutional development at the ministries of Interior and Defense prepared for the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. That’s on top of the elimination of “hundreds” of top police “leadership positions leadership positions deemed to be wasteful or redundant” over the past year. And “thousands of patronage positions” are expected to be jettisoned in the coming months.

Even though NATO is rushing to get more police in uniform so the cops can help Afghan soldiers take over security responsibilities from the U.S. by 2014, NATO is cheering the purge on. The Afghan police have had persistent problems with competence, corruption and even basic literacy. The report, acquired by Danger Room and scheduled for public release on Thursday, judges that Mohammadi’s firings, along with other recent “major reforms” to the ministry, will “help reduce bureaucracy, negative incentives and corruption.”

NATO is also hopeful about Mohammadi’s new squad. The new deputy for strategy and policy is getting rid of “thousands of patronage positions” from the ministry. The new logistics chief is “honestly assessing shortfalls” in equipping the cops, after accountability was “negligible” last summer. The new commander of the elite police force, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, is stressing “ethics, training [and] professionalism.”

If that sounds like faint praise, it speaks to how far the Afghan police still have to go before they can keep the peace without U.S. mentorship. Police units are often short on necessities like fuel and ammunition, and at times they use raids on suspected Taliban as opportunities to shake down civilians. Others make money on the side by helping the drug trade. Not many of them can read beyond a kindergarten level.

NATO’s training effort for the cops has its own problems. In November, its leader, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell said he was still short hundreds of police trainers. The U.S. Army has made up for some of that by re-awarding a billion-dollar training contract to DynCorp, the same contractor that’s mentored the cops for nearly a decade’s worth of under-performance. One of Gen. David Petraeus’ first Afghanistan initiatives was to deputize “local police units” – don’t call them “militias” — as an auxiliary force.

NATO sees reasons for optimism in the months ahead. A new law provides retirement benefits for cops, which helps get rid of “Soviet-era” police brass who’ve stuck around for a paycheck, something the report says “increased corruption in the lower ranks” by example. Over the next year, the interior ministry will add four more police training facilities around Afghanistan, allowing 18,000 more cops to be trained at any given time.

And the defense ministry, which is considered a more competent institution, is becoming more closely involved in the police’s development, “transferring small arms” to its sister ministry, “formalizing joint training, and improving information sharing.” It’s part of what NATO wants to see in 2012: less NATO teaching Afghans how to soldier and police, and more Afghans teaching each other those skills.

Whether that can happen remains to be seen. The report goes into a lot of detail about institutional improvements in both the defense and interior ministries. But it notes that even as the ministries are scheduled to add another 39,000 soldiers and cops this year — despite the Interior Ministry’s purge — poor literacy rates remain a problem: 50,000 security personnel have received literacy training, with 42,000 currently enrolled. And it doesn’t mention any pay increases for security forces, even though the Taliban’s estimated pay is about even or even better than what the Afghan government dishes out — another factor contributing to poor performance and corruption.

If there’s change coming to the Afghan police, the U.S. needs to rush to put it in place: by 2014, U.S. troops are supposed to relinquish a leading role in securing Afghanistan to the national police and army. But don’t think that’s going to mean the end of U.S. involvement in the Afghan security forces. The NATO training command estimates that it’ll cost $6 billion a year, indefinitely, to sustain the security infrastructure the U.S. is building — and given the dire state of Afghanistan’s economy, that cash is likely to come in large part from the U.S. taxpayer. The U.S. can buy good cops or it can buy bad cops, but chances are it’s going to be paying no matter what.  Please see the original here

January 25, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, NATO, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Security contractor: Afghan police running amok

By NBC News’ Atia Abawi

KABUL – A crackdown on private security firms in Afghanistan has created a power vacuum in the country’s capital city, with one security contractor saying Afghan forces have become like “kids in a candy store” as they harass and solicit bribes from expatriates and those who protect them.

“There are no adults to hold them back,” said the contractor, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. “There’s no talking to them or they get pushy because they’re only after cash [bribes] to let you go and keep your equipment.”

Earlier this year, President Karzai set a deadline of Dec. 17 for all private security firms to leave Afghanistan. Since then, police checkpoints have been popping up almost daily in neighborhoods where many private security firms protect clients such as foreign embassy employees, journalists and nongovernmental agencies.

The contractor said he and his clients have been stopped on a regular basis by police officers no longer wearing their identification cards, who illegally confiscate licensed cars, licensed weapons, radios and anything else at their personal whim.

“You’re dealing with people who are illiterate,” he said. “There is no point of having the correct paperwork because they can’t read it.” (An estimated 80 percent of the Afghan police force can’t read or write).

Karzai announced the ban on private security firms in August in response to citizens angered by their often heavy-handed tactics.

While the U.S. Embassy and military coalition expected Karzai to back down from this order, he hasn’t. He’s made some revisions, such as exempting embassy guards and those private firms that guard military installations, but he stands by the order that the rest have to go.

“Nothing has been publicly said and the police have taken it upon themselves to make up their own ideas,” the security contractor told us.

Outrage over sense of impunity
Afghan anger over the private contractors is rooted in what they perceive as the impunity with which the contractors operate in the country. An incident at the end of July brought the pent-up anger to the fore.

An armored vehicle from the private security firm DynCorp allegedly sped down the busy airport road in Kabul, swerving in and out of lanes, and eventually hit a vehicle head-on, killing four Afghans. An angry crowd erupted after the traffic accident, throwing rocks and setting fire to two DynCorp vehicles. It was only thanks to the Afghan police that the contractors were escorted safely away from the scene.

After the incident, DynCorp confirmed that their employees were involved in an accident, offered their condolences to those killed or injured and said that an investigation was under way.

The crowd dispersed after the incident, but the anger has not subsided.

“We request that the government close all security companies. They should be disarmed and shut down because they are involved directly and indirectly with our country’s instability,” Hafiz Samadee, an Afghan shopkeeper in the country’s southern city of Kandahar, told us.

Another small business owner in Kandahar, Dr. Farhid Stankzai, echoed those sentiments. “Security companies that were escorting logistic convoys created lots of problems…They interrogated and killed lots of innocent civilians…So we are really happy with the decision to close the companies.”

Trying to implement
Privately, U.S. diplomats were troubled by Karzai’s ban on private security contractors, fearing it would shut down embassies and halt USAID reconstruction projects, according to a recent Washington Post report.

But the U.S. embassy in Kabul issued a statement supporting the move: “The United States, along with our partners in the international community, fully supports effective implementation of Presidential Decree 62 to dissolve private security contractors and transition more control over security to the Afghan Government.”

The U.S. Embassy statement also said they “welcomed” the fact that Afghan government said development organizations would be able to keep their private security through the end of their current contracts.

While Karzai relented a little from his original decree that all private security must go, the ones that are left to serve embassies and other international organizations will have to abide by new rules, however unclear they are at the moment.

According to a new code of conduct recently released by the government, security companies must move their headquarters from inside Kabul to outside of the city and security guards will not be allowed to carry weapons outside of their homes, offices and licensed vehicles.

The Afghan government estimates there are nearly 40,000 armed security guards operating in the country; their goal is to cut that number in half, according to a western diplomat in Kabul.

Many of foreign employees of the security companies – so-called “third country nationals” who hail from places like Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Uganda – were brought in by the security companies to work, but have illegally overstayed their visas. They are now being deported to make way for Afghans who are expected to take their jobs.

As the total number of private security jobs in the country shrinks, Karzai’s hope is that Afghans formerly employed by foreign security companies will be able to join the Afghan military, but there may not be enough work for them.

“The main problem is people are going to be jobless and they will join the Taliban or criminal groups to make ends meet,” the Western private security contractor said. “If private security companies get shut down, the rate of kidnappings will go up the roof, more villas will be attacked and corruption will worsen.”  Please read the original here

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban’s beheading of six police raises fears over troop withdrawal

Martin Bentham    The London Evening Standard

Six Afghan police officers have been beheaded by Taliban fighters during a raid on government buildings in northern Afghanistan, Nato revealed today.

The killings happened when a police checkpoint close to the buildings in the Dahanah-ye Ghori district of Baghlan province was overrun by an unknown number of insurgents.

The area has so far been largely free of a Taliban presence and will raise fears that violence could be spreading even further throughout Afghanistan, putting a question mark over pledges to pull out foreign troops.

David Cameron, on a visit to the US, disclosed that the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan could begin as soon as next year, depending on “how well the security situation is progressing”.

An international conference this week on the future of Afghanistan concluded that Afghan forces should be leading security operations by 2014, with the aim of relieving foreign troops in some areas by as soon as the end of this year.

A spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the attack but denied the beheadings. The Taliban has cut off heads before but the governor of Baghlan, Abdul Majid, said he was unaware of the mutilation report.

Despite the number of foreign forces rising to around 150,000, the Taliban have made a comeback since their removal from power in 2001.

June was the deadliest month for US and international forces with the deaths of 103 personnel, including 60 Americans. Britain, with nearly 10,000 troops in the country, has suffered 322 fatalities since 2001.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Senators Call for Changes to Troubled, Costly Afghan Police Training Program

by Ryan Knutson, ProPublica

State and Defense department officials took a tongue-lashing today, trying to explain to a Senate subcommittee how the government has poured $6 billion since 2002 into building an effective Afghan police force with disastrous results.

ProPublica and Newsweek examined the problems [1] with police training in Afghanistan in a story published last month. The program, managed under a contract with DynCorp International, has faced challenges on every front, from recruitment to inadequate training periods to corruption to poor officer retention.

“Everything that could go wrong here, has gone wrong,” Gordon S. Heddell, the inspector general of the Department of Defense, acknowledged to an ad hoc subcommittee [2] of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Heddell’s office, along with the State Department’s Inspector General, completed a six-month audit in January of the program that found significant lapses.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the subcommittee chair, and others on the panel were less interested in rehashing the program’s well-known shortcomings and more interested in hearing about solutions. “What you laid out was a problem we knew in 2001,” said Sen. Edward Kaufman, D-Del., in response to comments from Heddell. “What are the two or three things you can spend $6 billion on and not end up with essentially nothing?”

Defense and State Department officials agreed that clearer guidelines for the contractor and more oversight are needed to improve the program. Currently, the State Department has just seven contract overseers in Afghanistan, said David T. Johnson, an assistant secretary for the State Department. The agency hopes to have 22 in place by September, Johnson said.

Another key would be to make training ongoing, rather than just the six weeks that police recruits are getting now, said David S. Sedney, a deputy assistant secretary with the Defense Department. “This is not a weeks- or months-long [process] — it’s a years-long process,” he said, adding that police need to be partnered with American military and more experienced Afghan troops on whom they can model their behavior.

Even if the program makes headway, some senators questioned whether it would be sustainable without a massive ongoing commitment from U.S. taxpayers. The Afghan police and army are slated to receive $11.6 billion to fund their operations for 2011, with just over half going to the police, Sedney said. McCaskill pointed out that’s only $2 billion less than the entire country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“It’s obvious that Afghanistan is not going to be able to afford what we’re building for them,” she said. The U.S. has made a “billion-dollar commitment for years to come.”

The government is already exploring whether a change in contractors might benefit the police-training program. DynCorp’s contract has been extended for several months, but the State Department has issued a call for new bids, hoping an array of companies will step up to compete for the job, Johnson said. McCaskill was skeptical, however.

“I will be shocked — like winning the lottery — if we end up with anybody other than DynCorp,” she said.

Write to Ryan Knutson at Ryan.Knutson@propublica.org

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, DynCorp, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghan Police a Predictable Failure

Outside View  UPI


HELSINKI, Finland, March 25 (UPI) — The sorry state of affairs surrounding the training and readiness of the Afghan National Police is again in the news. If it were not so pathetic it would be laughable.

In February 2009 a report issued by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction titled “Hard Lessons: the Iraq Reconstruction Experience” described massive waste, fraud and a lack of accountability in the $50 billion relief and reconstruction project in Iraq, most of it done by private U.S. contractors.

At that time, the report’s senior author, Stuart Bowen, suggested that many of the same mistakes will likely occur again in Afghanistan because none of the substantive changes in oversight and contracting or personnel assignments that the U.S. Congress, auditors and outside experts proposed for Iraq have been implemented in Afghanistan.

The price tag for training the ANP is $6 billion and counting. So, what exactly has been the return on this investment?

As described in a Newsweek and ProPublica report, less than 12 percent of the ANP units are capable of operating on their own, 90 percent of recruits are illiterate, 15 percent test positive for drug use and only 25 percent of the current 98,000 ANP force has received any formal training. Of the roughly 170,000 Afghans trained under the program, only about 30,000 remain.

In the worst-case scenario, members of the ANP have been reported to have sold their ammunition to the Taliban. Even Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department’s top representative in the region, has called the ANP “an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption.”

If the ANP is riddled with corruption, then our side is apparently riddled with incompetence.

Since the Department of State first engaged Virginia defense contractor DynCorp International to assist in training the ANP in 2003, errors in contract management and weaknesses in contractor accounting procedures appear to have been frequent.

According to a joint Department of State and Department of Defense report “Interagency Assessment of Afghan Police Training and Readiness”, as of May 2006, funding for the ANP program was about $1.1 billion for the period 2004-07. Almost all of that funding went to the contract with DynCorp.

In September 2004, barely one year after the initial DynCorp contract to train the ANP, allegations were made against DynCorp’s Worldwide Personal Protective services in Afghanistan. The official investigation found no indications of fraud and mismanagement in DynCorp’s operations, but it did note instances of poor accounting. The main conclusion of the Department of State report was poor contractor oversight by its own contracting officers, permitting $950,000 of erroneous or duplicate billing after an examination of a $17 million limited sample of contractor expenses, all of which the contractor agreed to reimburse.

According to the Newsweek article, a recent government audit of ANP training identified a total of $322 million in invoices that had been “approved even though they were not allowable, allocable, or reasonable” with half of the invoices containing errors.

None of this, however, is new. Operation Iraqi Freedom had comparable pain points.

An inspector general’s report of Jan. 30, 2007 entitled Review of DynCorp International, LLC, Contract Number S-LMAQM-04-C-0030, Task Order 0338, for the Iraqi Police Training Program Support was consistent with the results of other investigations.

It concluded that “weak and sometimes non-existent contract administration was the root cause of the problems we identified with work performed under Task Order 0338.”

One of the recommendations was to “seek reimbursement from DynCorp of the improperly authorized payment of $4.2 million that represents contractually unauthorized work directed by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. This work included the relocation of the residential camp, the manufacture of additional VIP trailers, and the construction of an Olympic size swimming pool.”

As early as December 2005, a Department of State asset verification report from Iraq stated that “DynCorp invoices were frequently ambiguous and lacked the level of detail necessary to determine what was procured,” “did not maintain a complete list of items procured” and “did not establish policy guidelines or accountability procedures.” The report concluded that the government couldn’t determine if it received what it paid for.

Despite a history of alleged contractual difficulties, the chief executive officer recently told investors that DynCorp will continue to train the ANP at least through July. DynCorp maintains that has “diligently fulfilled the requirements” of operating Afghan National Police training centers while developing and implementing police training programs, and “has won praise for its efforts from senior U.S. government officials.”

Reached for comment, an official representative for DynCorp also noted: “There are three elements that are central to designing a successful police training program in Afghanistan. First, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined at the outset so that both government and contractors fully understand the goals and metrics by which success will be measured. Second, government should provide oversight that is aligned to the mission in order that professional and capable contractors like DynCorp International can achieve the appropriate results. Third, the contract process should provide a fair playing field for all bidders, so that government can achieve the best value by choosing the most qualified contractor with the least transition risk.”

The ongoing controversy regarding the ANP program could all be just shrugged off as typical government ineptitude and the comfortable relationships that can develop between contractors and contracting officers.

This would be so, if the effectiveness of the ANP was not a key element of the “hold” and “build” components of the “clear, hold and build” counterinsurgency strategy.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who took over in November as chief of the U.S. program to expand and improve Afghanistan’s security forces, has noted that it is easier to work with military personnel or national police forces than with contractors. He may be on to something.

Unless one is prepared to be thoroughly aware of the statement of work and the terms and conditions of the contracts, while vigorously monitoring contractor performance and accounting, the problems of the past will continue into the future.

Sadly, the disaster that is the ANP program wasn’t only predictable, it was preventable.

Original Commentary here

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Police, DynCorp | , , , , , | Leave a comment