Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Afghan president rejects U.S. apology over killings

Karzai says civilian casualties are no longer an acceptable consequence of U.S. occupation

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, gestures towards journalists during press conference in February.

Afghanistan’s president on Sunday rejected a U.S. apology for the mistaken killing of nine Afghan boys in a NATO air attack and said civilian casualties are no longer acceptable.

According to a statement from his office, Hamid Karzai told Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, that expressing regret was not sufficient in last week’s killing of the boys, ages 12 and under, by coalition helicopters.

NATO has also apologized for the mistaken killings. Civilian casualties from coalition operations are a major source of strain in the already difficult relationship between Karzai’s government and the United States, and they generate widespread outrage among the population.

March 6, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Casualties | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rules of disengagement in Afghanistan

Karzai, foreign officials differ on transition timeline

The Prague Post February 16, 2011

As the Czech Republic boosts its 2011 military troop deployment by 30 percent in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai is suggesting very different ideas on the future of foreign forces in his war-torn country.

In a speech at the Munich Security Conference Feb. 6, Karzai called for the withdrawal of “parallel organizations and mechanisms that bypass the state,” which he said includes private security firms, provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) and contractors. He also called for ending “spending of resources through channels other than the Afghan government,” adding that he wanted “Afghan responsibility for security” by 2014.

NATO officials were quick to counter Karzai’s statements, insisting PRTs – units consisting of military, diplomatic personnel, police trainers and civilian experts from the United States and ISAF nations – contribute to the goal of strengthening the central government. But the president’s speech highlighted the cracks in agreements on the country’s future reached at the Kabul Conference in July 2010 and raised questions from some coalition states about their willingness to contribute through the central government as opposed to through individual PRT groups.

Please read the entire article here

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, 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

Inspector general’s report questions U.S. salary supplements for Afghan government workers

By Walter Pincus at The Washington Post

Remember the recent story that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff was carrying a bag from Iran containing packets of $1 million or more in Euro bills severaltimes a year to buy influence in the presidential palace?

What would you think if it turns out that the United States has not only supplied its own millions in salary supplements to employees in Karzai’s office since 2005, but also that those payments will continue through March? Oh, and that some of the money will be going directly to support the office of that same Karzai chief of staff, Omar Dawoodzai?

Just days after Karzai publicly admitted that he was receiving “bags of money” from Iran as well as funds from the United States to cover expenses of his presidential office, a report by the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) reported that since 2005, Washington had supplied $6.6 million in salary supplements to employees in Karzai’s office.

Overall, based on data SIGAR gathered in February, its report said U.S. agencies working in Afghanistan “were providing more than $1 million in monthly salary payments to 900 Afghan government employees and technical advisers in 16 ministries and government offices.”

The two largest recipients of those U.S. funds at that time were the Afghan Ministry of Education – where 413 people got salary support – and Karzai’s office of the president, where 103 got additional pay. Since 2008, 50 members of the 71 employees at the AfghanGovernment Media Information Center, who handle press affairs for the Karzai government, got salary support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) – and more recently, the U.S. Embassy public affairs section. The remaining 21 are paid by other country donors.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which provides most of these funds, paid about $19 million from January 2007 to January 2010.  Please read the entire story here

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, State Department, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hamid Karzai’s crackdown on private security puts $1bn Afghan aid at risk

At least 18 projects could close if guards used by foreign contractors to protect their staff are disbanded

John Boone in Kabul Guardian UK

More than a billion dollars worth of aid projects in Afghanistan will have to be cancelled by the end of the month if Hamid Karzai persists with his demand that all private security companies should be disbanded by the end of the year, according to figures seen by the Guardian.

Foreign contractors insist on private security companies to protect their staff, and warn that the presidential decree, first issued in August, will put workers in jeopardy.

Now figures presented by companies running aid projects to the US Embassy in Kabul show that the proposed revolution to the country’s security industry will “severely handicap the counter-insurgency strategy” in the country and “put in jeopardy substantial humanitarian and development efforts”.

The report, collated by Overseas Security Advisory Council, a group representing the private sector but which works under the auspices of the US State Department, offers the best available guess of the effect on development work by 59 organisations that work on US funded projects, including massive road-building programmes and agricultural support.

The estimates suggest that of a total of $5.1bn worth of US aid earmarked for spending by the 59 companies, 18 projects worth $1.4bn would have to be shut down, starting at the end of this month.

Four more projects worth $484m would have to be almost completely closed down while other contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars would only continue on a much diminished scale. The figures were presented to the US embassy earlier in the week by the concerned companies.

Karzai has long made clear his opposition to unpopular private security companies. He announced in November that they should be disbanded by late 2011, saying that only the Afghan army and police should have the right to carry weapons.

But there is widespread scepticism about his motives for suddenly bringing forward the deadline.

“He needed something to get leverage on us after we started beating him up on [the need to end government] corruption,” said one US official. “Security companies is perfect because he knows we can’t function without them.”

Other western diplomats have argued the decision was more a sign of the president’s chaotic style of decision-making that is largely unchecked by a strong civil service capable of querying policy decisions.

The US and the Nato International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) have publicly endorsed the president’s desire to rid the country of security companies, but believe he is trying to implement it far too quickly and have been frantically lobbying for concessions.

A senior ISAF officer said that it would “take years” to fully withdraw private security guards from Afghanistan.

“There is only so many police and they are already needed somewhere else,” he said. “The people doing the job today are paid a much higher salary than the government can afford. I don’t think they are the ones hanging out for that job.”

David Petraeus, the commander of ISAF, has personally warned Karzai of the debilitating effect the move would have on the aid effort.

So far the lobbying has prompted Karzai to exempt companies that guard embassies, military installations and “depots used by foreign forces”. But the large number of foreign aid contractors who insist on providing armed guards for their expat staff have not been exempted.

On Sunday Karzai’s office remained defiant, publishing a statement that called for all other private security firms to be “considered as a serious threat against national security and Afghanistan’s sovereignty and shall, with no exception, go through the disbandment process”.

“The government needs to understand that time is running out,” said one manager from a major implementing partner.

“On 1 November all these companies will have to issue termination letters to local and international staff because it will take time to wind down projects and bring assets out of the country.”

There are signs the government may consider allowing companies to remain operating on a case by case basis. Today the interior ministry asked all private security companies to provide reasons why they should continue to exist – a move described as “absurd” by one contractor. Read the original article here

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, NATO, NGO's, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Afghan security firms denounce Karzai’s ban

Washington Post Foreign Service

KABUL — The Watan Group’s trained fighting force of 2,000 men, armed with rifles and rockets, battles daily to secure the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan so that critical supply convoys can reach U.S. and NATO troops across the country.

Up to 50 guards, paid about $600 monthly, are killed in Taliban ambushes each month, during fighting so fierce that the Afghan army and police often refuse to help, said brothers Ahmad and Rashid Popal, who own the company.

Now, Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to do away with Watan Group and 51 similar firms, both foreign and domestic, which employ more than 30,000 guards working mostly for Western entities. Karzai, who calls the independent fighting forces “thieves by day, terrorists by night,” has set a four-month deadline to dissolve the companies and bring their work portfolio under his government’s control.

What will happen if Karzai gets his way? Transit routes will be impassable, foreign companies will leave Afghanistan, the economy will suffer, and — perhaps most ominously — the unemployed security guards will turn to the insurgency, the Popal brothers predicted.

“If you get rid of the guards, 60 to 65 percent of them will join the Taliban,” said Rashid Popal, Watan’s deputy chairman. “They won’t join the government [forces]. If you go and die for the government, they don’t take care of your family like we do. Their only alternative is the Taliban.”   Read Original Story here

August 17, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Private security firm solicitations thriving in Afghanistan

Checkpoint Washington    The Washington Post

Days before Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman on Tuesday said a deadline would soon be set to disband all private security firms, the U.S. military in Kandahar and Kabul had eight separate solicitations posted for such firms to provide continuing guard service for U.S. facilities for another three years.

For example, the Joint Contracting Command in Kandahar is seeking a contractor to supply Forward Operating Base at Tarin Kowt with 42 armed guards, three supervisors and a site manager. At the southern Afghanistan base, the contract force is to “to perform internal guard services to include but not limited to, internal and external control points, interior and exterior perimeter towers, internal roving and escort guard services,” according to a notice on the website fbodaily.com.

In a speech to the Civil Services Institute in Kabul last week dealing with security contractors, Karzai said that the government “could no longer tolerate the existence of such parallel structures .. .. . whether they are owned by foreigners or Afghans. People do not trust these companies and believe their existence is against Afghanistan’s national interests.”

Instead of supporting private contractors, Karzai argued, the international community “should assist in strengthening the Afghan army and police.”  Read the entire story here

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Pentagon, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon plays down Karzai plan to dissolve security firms

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon Tuesday played down Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s announced plans to dissolve all private security firms in Afghanistan, saying the issue was under discussion.

“I don’t know that it’s a decision; it’s concerns that President Karzai has expressed,” said Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer said earlier in Kabul that the Afghan president will soon set a deadline for dissolving the private security firms, calling it “a serious program that the government of Afghanistan will execute.”

Lapan said the Pentagon understood there were problems with the private security firms, but was working to address the issues raised by Karzai in a way that also met US security needs.

“There are security needs that we have, that our forces have, that fall into that category so we want to make sure that we are addressing the Afghan government’s concerns but meeting our requirements as well,” he told reporters.

US contractor DynCorp refused to comment on the development Tuesday, while the former Blackwater security firm Xe could not be reached for comment.  Read the full story here

August 11, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Pentagon, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Foreign mercs must leave, Afghan president says

Tehran Times

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on the United States and its allies to stop supporting private security companies, saying the activities of these firms aggravate the country’s problems.

Karzai made the remarks in Kabul on Saturday during a visit to the Afghan Civil Service Institute, which is training thousands of civil servants in the capital and across the nation to bolster the capacity of the Afghan government, AP reported.

“To help strengthen the Afghan government, the U.S. and NATO should eliminate private security companies,” Karzai said, adding that their presence is “intolerable” since they have created a security structure that undermines the police and the army.

“Afghan or foreign companies, there are some 30,000 to 40,000 people in these security companies,” he noted.

“They have created security problems for us, whoever is working in these private security companies, they are not working for the benefit of Afghan national interests… If they really want to be at the service of Afghans, they should join the Afghan National Police,” Karzai added.

“Very urgently and seriously we want… the foreigners to stop creating private security companies,” the Afghan president said, adding, “we cannot tolerate these companies, which are like a parallel structure with our forces. We cannot have police, army and — at the same time — another force as private security companies.”

Kabul has confirmed the presence of 52 foreign private security companies in Afghanistan, including the notorious U.S. security firm Xe Services LLC — formerly known as Blackwater, Press TV reported.

Private security guards are operating in the country with absolutely no supervision by the Afghan government.

Karzai had earlier accused foreign security contractors of operating like militias, saying that the firms are only worsening the security situation in Afghanistan.

Most of the security contractors are believed to have close ties with Afghan warlords and have been accused of being partly responsible for the rise in civilian casualties in the country.

In the June 4 edition of The Wall Street Journal, it was reported that Xe’s most recent government contract tasked the group with protecting CIA bases in Afghanistan.

The report was confirmed at the end of June by Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta during a TV interview, the newspaper wrote.

Blackwater/Xe mercs were hated by the Iraqis during their time in that country because they were able to kill many civilians with impunity, Press TV reported.

Afghan civilian deaths up

Civilian war deaths in the first seven months of 2010 rose by 6 percent over the same period last year, Afghanistan’s human rights commission revealed on Sunday.

The Taliban and their allies were responsible for 68 percent of the at least 1,325 civilian deaths recorded by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the organization said at a press conference. Twenty-three percent were ascribed to NATO or Afghan government forces, The Associated Press reported.

Responsibility for the remaining 9 percent could not be determined because they occurred in areas that were too dangerous for a thorough investigation, the commission said.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban Pays Its Troops Better Than Karzai Pays His

By Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room

Are the Taliban shelling out more money for their fighters than the U.S. and the international community are for Afghan security forces? The American military says no, and e-mails the chart below to make its case. But it’s not the most persuasive document. And it’s undermined by one of the reports in WikiLeaks’ trove of war logs.

In February 2008, a U.S. military report from southern Afghanistan documented how a Taliban leader offered a brigade commander in the Afghan National Army $100,000 to quit his job. (He also had his family’s safety threatened as an or-else.) That would be a lucrative bribe for most people. But as the American chart shows, a colonel in the Afghan national security forces would have to put in 24 years of service before pulling down $805 per month.

That should give a sense of what the incentive structure is for Afghans caught in their country’s war — including those willing to answer the call of the Karzai government to join the army and police forces. In December, now-retired General Stanley McChrystal testified to Congress that the pay scale of the Afghan security forces was “almost at parity” with the estimated $300 that the Taliban pays its foot soldiers per month. But look at the chart, issued before McChrystal testified. An Afghan policeman or soldier with under three years in uniform pulls in $165 per month.  See the Chart and read the entire story here

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The other, powerful Karzai boss in Afghanistan

By Dan Murphy Wed Jul 14

Kandahar, Afghanistan – Ahmed Wali Karzai, leader of the Popalzai tribe and the most powerful man in Kandahar, settles down in his chambers for another round of grievance hearing, dispute settling, and political strategizing.

Gazed down upon by a photo of his assassinated father and bathed in the aura of his half brother, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Wali Karzai’s avid eyes flit over the tribal chieftains and petitioners around him as he dispenses the business of the day.

Increasingly, the business of the day in Kandahar and the business of Ahmed Wali Karzai are indistinguishable. To his supporters, that’s all to the good – a supporter of the United States effort with his hand on the tribal political levers in a province and city that’s the key to defeating the Taliban.

Encouraging corruption?But to others, Mr. Karzai is building a traditional patronage network – with his family at the top of the heap – that is encouraging corruption, creating tribal divisions, and shifting support to the Taliban from the NATO-backed government of his brother.

Kandahar, awash in drug money and contractor profits, where Taliban assassinations occur almost daily, is currently the focus of a US military buildup. Karzai – or AWK in the language of the blossoming diplomatic cables and military intelligence dossiers on his activities – is the man in the middle.

He’s been accused of having business ties to the heroin traders and warlords that have proliferated across the south since NATO ousted the Taliban in 2001. Almost everyone – local journalists, businessmen, political rivals – alleges he’s amassed a fortune, though Kandaharis, when pressed for details, often respond with the Pashtun phrase, “My mouth is full of water.”

‘I’m like a spice’AWK denies all the charges against him, and says he’s simply a tribal leader and politician whose power comes from a famous and respected name among the Pashtun tribes of the south. He says his critics are trying to weaken President Karzai, with family ties and his influence proving an easy target. “I’m like a spice,” he says. “To make the dish more delicious, you add a little Ahmed Wali.”

Whatever the source, a few days spent with him demonstrates his local power. A Kandahar without AWK could be as problematic, or more so, than one with him.

It’s a point that a US officer in Kabul – who thinks NATO should hold its nose and deal with him – makes: “We think there’s some dirt on him. But everyone’s got dirt on him. And we know that he’s working with us to deal with the Taliban.”  Read the entire story here

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, NATO | , , , | Leave a comment