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.
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.
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.
The Daily Mail October 6, 2012
A man diagnosed with a tropical disease after returning to the UK from Afghanistan has died in hospital, it has emerged today.
The 38-year-old was fighting for his life in a high security isolation ward at the Royal Free Hospital in London after contracting the deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).
He was transferred by the RAF on a C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Brownlee Unit in Glasgow to the specialist high security unit at the Royal Free London on Thursday.
It is the first laboratory-confirmed case of CCHF in the UK, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Other passengers who sat close to him on an aircraft are undergoing daily health checks.
‘Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever can be acquired from an infected patient only through direct contact with their blood or body fluids, therefore there is no risk to the general public,’ the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust said.
‘We would like to extend our condolences to his family.’
The man, 38, was diagnosed when he returned to Glasgow on a flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.
He had flown into Scotland on a connecting flight from Dubai.
According to the Department of Labor’s Defense Base Act Claim Summary Reports there were at least 121 Civilian Contractor Deaths filed on in the third quarter of 2012.
Keep in mind that 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.
Many foreign national and local national contractors and their families are never told that they are covered under the Defense Base Act and so not included in the count.
At least 18 death claims were filed for Iraq
At Least 90 death claims were filed for Afghanistan
At least 3,195 Defense Base Act Claims were filed during this quarter
At least 121 were death claims
At least 1,138 were for injuries requiring longer than 4 days off work
At least 85 were for injuries requiring less than 4 days off work
At least 1,879 were for injuries requiring no time off of work
A total of 90,680 Defense Base Act Claims have been filed since September 1, 2001
HERNANDO –October 3, 2012
A 52-year-old contractor from Citrus County was one of two people killed last weekend in Afghanistan.
According to Bay News 9’s partner newspaper the Citrus County Chronicle, Kevin O’Rourke, who lived in the town of Hernando, was in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor with NATO, working for Engility, a law enforcement professional firm based in Alexandria, Va.
A former New York City police officer, O’Rourke missed being in the World Trade Center by 20 minutes on September 11, 2001. He spent hours that day helping a friend trapped in the rubble.
Friends say after 9/11, O’Rourke saw “a great need to go to (Iraq and) Afghanistan and to help the younger generation understand what we went through in New York.”
New York Post October 1, 2012
A retired NYPD sergeant working as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan was killed during an apparent “insider attack” by members of the Afghan military.
Kevin O’Rourke, 52, and an unidentified US soldier were slain Saturday in the clash with Afghan troops.
O’Rourke had been on the force for 20 years and worked as member of the NYPD’s elite Emergency Service Unit.
He was also one of the department’s scuba instructors, based at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field.
O’Rourke, originally from Long Island, retired in 2003 and later moved to Florida.
The soldier was the 2,000 service member to die in the 11-year conflict.
Three Afghan troops were also killed in the shootout at a checkpoint in the eastern part of the country.,
while three other U.S. citizens and one Afghan were wounded, police spokesman Wali Mohammad said on Sunday.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Two Americans and three Afghan soldiers died in a firefight that may have involved insurgent forces, the International Security Assistance Force said Sunday.
One of the U.S. deaths was a soldier; the other, a civilian, U.S. officials said.
A NATO soldier, a NATO civilian contractor and several Afghan soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier on Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, the latest in growing number of the so-called “green-on-blue” insider attacks in the country, the NATO said Sunday.
“An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service member and an ISAF civilian contractor died following a suspected insider attack in eastern Afghanistan yesterday,” the NATO-led coalition or ISAF said in a statement.
“It is also known that there were Afghan National Army (ANA) casualties,” it said, adding “a joint ANA and ISAF assessment is underway.”
The brief statement did not disclose the nationalities of the victims and the exact place of the incident under ISAF policy.
Troops mainly from U.S. have been stationed within the 100,000 strong NATO-led ISAF forces in eastern Afghan provinces.
Melbourne-based Atom Airways caters to private contractors’ comfortable traveling to Afghanistan
The flight from the United States to Afghanistan is long and, more often than not, boring and uncomfortable.
Dan Carson, founder of Atom Airways LLC, aims to change that.
Next month he plans to offer weekly flights from Melbourne International Airport to Afghanistan, focusing on transporting private contractors to the war-torn country on an upgraded wide-body Boeing 767. Carson wants to tap into defense contractors in Brevard County and across the U.S just as they start to play a bigger role in security and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan
The flights would leave Melbourne International, stop briefly in Bucharest, Romania, and travel into Afghanistan and land at one of four airports in that country. The goal is to pamper the passengers and ensure they’re well-rested and fresh when they land, because typically contractors go right to work after clearing security.
“There is a pent-up demand for this,” said Carson, 69, a longtime commercial pilot and Indialantic resident who since 2005 has flown private contractors into Iraq.
According to the Defense Department, there were 113,491 employees of defense contractors in Afghanistan in January. Of those, 25,287, or about 22 percent, were American citizens, according to a report earlier this year in the New York Times.
Most of the major defense contractors in Brevard County have employees in Afghanistan, though they prefer for security reasons not to mention locations or itineraries.
“Melbourne is an excellent airport to come into and fly out of,” Carson said. “While there is limited service here, you can fly into Orlando from anywhere in the United States and then make the short drive to Melbourne.”
The flight from Melbourne International to Bucharest takes 9½ hours. From Bucharest, it’s about another five hours to Afghanistan
The 24-year-old aircraft, last used by the Australian-based air carrier Qantas, has been modified to make traveling more comfortable. The jet’s 206 seats have been reduced to 150 seats to give the passengers in coach class more legroom.
Passengers also will be provided with pillows, blankets, iPads loaded with games, DVD players, movies and food from Chantilly, Va.-based Rudy’s Inflight Catering.
“They can sleep whenever they want and they can eat whenever they want,” Carson said. “They have a real nice comfortable ride, which is good for them.”
Atom’s jet is owned by EL Management LLC, a Miami-based private investment company that purchases and leases aircraft, and also sells parts for aircraft.
The first flight from Melbourne to Afghanistan is scheduled for Oct. 12. Carson won’t say how many people have booked flights but indicated its fewer than the 150 available seats. That’s partially on purpose, he said, so he and the flight staff can work out any kinks in the operation.
Marcie Hascall Clark, whose husband was a civilian contractor seriously wounded in Iraq, likes the idea behind Atom Airways. Clark operates a support group and website called “Civilian Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“It’s a long flight and most of the time you have to spend a couple of days in Dubai,” said Clark, who lives in Satellite Beach and blogs about civilian contracting issues.
“Contracting over there probably is going to stay lucrative for some years to come, so he should be in a good position to continue,” she said.
Carson, who previously ran flights for the U.S. State Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also hopes to fold a tourism charter business into Atom’s strategic plan, which would involve bringing Eastern Europeans to Central Florida and vice versa, since Bucharest is a key leg of the route.
In Melbourne, the company has 25 employees and plans to ramp up a sales and marketing and operations staff of 200 during the next two years and lease office space at Melbourne International.
Currently the most common way to get to Afghanistan on a non-military flight is to fly to Dubai on Delta Air Lines or United Airlines from a major U.S. airport. From there, a traveler usually has to choose from a list of foreign commercial carriers like Air Arabia or Pakistan International Airlines.
Atom’s round trip cost to Afghanistan is $3,850 for coach and $5,250 for business class. The fares are higher than other airlines but Carson said Atom allows modifications up to 48 hours prior to takeoff without penalties.
With the other airlines, those penalties can run into the thousands of dollars if last-minute scheduling changes are needed, Carson said.