Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

KABUL, Afghanistan — Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies. Officials said Mr. Furlong’s secret network might have been improperly financed by diverting money from a program designed to merely gather information about the region.

Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.

Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.

Read the full story here

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interference Seen in Blackwater Inquiry

By JAMES RISEN Published: March 2, 2010

WASHINGTON — An official at the United States Embassy in Iraq has told federal prosecutors that he believes that State Department officials sought to block any serious investigation of the 2007 shooting episode in which Blackwater Worldwide security guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, according to court testimony made public on Tuesday.

David Farrington, a State Department security agent in the American Embassy at the time of the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, told prosecutors that some of his colleagues were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help the Blackwater guards avoid punishment for a crime that drew headlines and raised tensions between American and Iraqi officials.

The description of Mr. Farrington’s account came in closed-door testimony last October from Kenneth Kohl, the lead prosecutor in the case against the Blackwater guards.

“I talked to David Farrington, who was concerned, who expressed concern about the integrity of the work being done by his fellow officers,” Mr. Kohl recalled. He said that Mr. Farrington had said he was in meetings where diplomatic security agents said that after they had gone to the scene and picked up casings and other evidence, “They said we’ve got enough to get these guys off now.”  Read full story here

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater | , , , | Leave a comment

Senate Slams ‘Reckless’ Contractor

By AUGUST COLE

Wall Street Journal

Military contractors in Afghanistan affiliated with the security company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide regularly carried unauthorized weapons and engaged in “reckless” behavior that included the accidental shooting of a fellow contractor, a Senate investigation has found.

Investigators from the Senate Armed Services Committee also found weak oversight by the U.S. Army and Raytheon Co., which had hired the contractors from Paravant LLC to train Afghan forces. Paravant was a special unit set up by Blackwater to work for Raytheon on the contract.

The problems reveal a potential weak link in the Obama administration’s strategy to build up Afghan forces to secure the country, an approach that relies heavily on defense firms to conduct training missions that are difficult to oversee and often dangerous. It also reveals the risk big defense companies, such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., court as they consider whether to bid on what will amount to billions of dollars in future training contracts in war zones in the coming years. Xe Services LLC, which is the new name for the parent company of Blackwater Worldwide, is continuing to vie for such work.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) said misconduct by contractors in Afghanistan undermines U.S. efforts there. The Defense Department and civilian agencies are intent on winning over the Afghan populace to help stabilize the war-ravaged country. “If we are going to win that struggle we need to know that our contractor personnel are adequately screened, supervised, and held accountable, because in the end the Afghan people will hold us responsible for their actions,” said Mr. Levin at a briefing with reporters ahead of a Senate hearing Wednesday on the Paravant contract.

The Justice Department indicted two former military trainers working for Paravant in January for their alleged role in a May 2009 shooting in Kabul that left two Afghan civilians dead and another injured. The men were charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. The men have said they acted in self-defense after a traffic accident.

In a statement, Xe said the company’s new management, brought in early last year, “was taking steps to address shortcomings in the Paravant program” at the time of the May 2009 incident. Xe also said that Raytheon and the Defense Department knew that Paravant contractors carried unauthorized weapons, and said they shouldn’t have been doing so without official approval, which was being sought. The two contractors involved in the May shooting “clearly violated clear company policies,” Xe said.

Prior to that incident, Senate investigators uncovered a December 2008 shooting that involved a senior Paravant trainer accidentally shooting a colleague during an impromptu practice session of firing assault rifles from moving vehicles. A Paravant executive wrote in a memo after the incident that “everyone on the team showed poor judgment.” There were about 72 trainers on the contract, but it was frequently undermanned, according to committee staffers. The Army was notified of the incident by Raytheon, but didn’t investigate it.

The trainers were not authorized to carry weapons. Yet Blackwater contractors had already taken hundreds of AK-47 rifles from a supply intended for use by the Afghan National Police, which was also where the Paravant trainers acquired their assault rifles, according to committee staffers. The company has yet to account for all of the weapons it removed from the depot, they said.

In September 2008, more than 200 assault rifles guns were signed out to “Eric Cartman,” which is the name of a character on the animated television show “South Park.” The company said it had no contractors by that name, according to committee staffers.

Mr. Levin was particularly critical of the companies, as well as the Army. He said of Raytheon’s supervision of Paravant: “They weren’t minding the shop at all.”

Raytheon declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

According to the committee, the Paravant subcontract was valued at about $20 million over two years as part of Raytheon’s approximately $11 billion U.S. Army training contract that stretches over 10 years.

Raytheon replaced Paravant with MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., last year.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army office overseeing the training program declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

Mr. Levin was especially critical of Blackwater, who he said “misrepresented the facts” during the committee’s investigation and who he accused of operating with “carelessness and recklessness” in Afghanistan.

Raytheon and Xe executives are expected to appear as witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iraq confiscates arms in private security crackdown

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Security forces confiscated hundreds of rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and other military gear in a crackdown on private security contractors in Iraq, officials said on Saturday.

Police raided three locations in Baghdad on Friday, a week after Iraqi authorities were incensed by a U.S. judge’s decision to throw out charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused of killing over a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007.

Officials said they are targeting private security companies that are no longer legally licensed to operate in Iraq.

“All those companies with their work permits expired are not allowed to move one meter inside Baghdad, or own one piece of weaponry,” Baghdad security spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said.

He would not reveal how many unlicensed contractors were on the target list, or their names.

Authorities raided the headquarters of a foreign security contractor, whose name could not be immediately confirmed, on Friday night and confiscated 20,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 300 armored shields.

In another location they found 400 rifles, helmets, radio devices and more than 35 vehicles believed to belong to the same company, officials said. No one was arrested.

Private foreign security contractors played a major role in Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003, in many cases hired by the United States to guard diplomats and other officials. Iraqis accused them of running roughshod over locals.

For a time, the foreign guards enjoyed immunity from prosecution. That ended with a bilateral agreement that took effect in 2009.

The Iraqi government called unacceptable the U.S. court’s December 31 dismissal of charges against five Blackwater guards accused of shooting indiscriminately in a Baghdad traffic circle, and said it is taking its own legal steps against the company, now known as Xe Services.

Major General Hussein Kamal, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, denied that the Baghdad crackdown was a reprisal for the Blackwater case. He said the ministry had given a group of security firms ample warning to renew their permits.

“We have closed some of the companies and confiscated their weapons and vehicles,” he said, adding, “We are not reacting to the (Blackwater) judge’s decision.”

January 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Judge dimisses charges in Blackwater Iraq Killings

A US federal judge has dismissed all charges against five guards from US security firm Blackwater over the killing of 17 Iraqis in 2007.

BBC

The five, contracted to defend US diplomatic personnel, were accused of opening fire on a crowd in Baghdad.

District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the US justice department had used evidence prosecutors were not supposed to have.

The five had all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. A sixth guard admitted killing at least one Iraqi.

The killings, which took place in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, strained Iraq’s relationship with the US and raised questions about US contractors operating in war zones.

Plea deal

Lawyers for the five guards say they were acting in self-defence, but witnesses and family members of those killed maintain that the shooting on 16 September 2007 was unprovoked.

The disputed evidence concerned statements the guards gave to state department investigators, which they were told would not be used to bring a criminal case.

This limited immunity deal meant that prosecutors should have built their case against the men without using the statements.

But Judge Urbina said prosecutors had failed to do so, and that the US government’s explanation for this was “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility”.

Justice department spokesman Dean Boyd told the Associated Press news agency: “We’re obviously disappointed by the decision. We’re still in the process of reviewing the opinion and considering our options.”

The five guards were Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough – all of whom are decorated military veterans.

As well as the 14 counts of manslaughter, they had faced 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence.

A sixth Blackwater employee, Jeremy Ridgeway, had agreed to a plea deal in return for testifying against his colleagues.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fuel convoy hit in eastern Afghanistan

KABUL — An Afghan police official says at least two private security guards have been wounded and two fuel tankers set on fire in eastern Afghanistan when militants attacked a supply convoy for NATO forces.

Provincial police spokesman Ghafor Khan says the two were injured in a battle Sunday near Jalalabad between the enemy combatants and private guards providing security for the convoy. He says other tankers were damaged along the highway, a main supply route between Pakistan and the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Original Story here

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

As US Forces in Iraq Withdraw, Need for Private Guards Grows

By Walter Pincus

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Original Story here

As the United States withdraws its combat forces from Iraq, the government is hiring more private guards to protect U.S. installations at a cost that could near $1 billion, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

On Sept. 1, the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) awarded contracts expected to be worth $485 million over the next two years to five firms to provide security and patrol services to U.S. bases in Iraq.

Under this contract, the firms will bid against one another for individual orders at specific bases or locations. These “task orders” in the past have ranged from supplying one specialist to providing as many as 1,000 people to handle security for a major base.

Under a similar contract with five security contractors that began in September 2007, the MNF-I spent $253 million through March 2009, with needs growing over that 18-month period. That contract, which was to run three years, had a spending limit of $450 million.

Against that background, the inspector general for reconstruction predicted that costs for private security at U.S. facilities in Iraq “will grow in size to a potential $935 million.” The inspector general’s report, issued this year, said the MNF-I planned to switch to private guards for Victory Base Camp, one of its largest installations. That facility alone would require “approximately 2,600 security personnel,” the report said.

The need for contract guards began growing this year. The Central Command’s June quarterly report on contracting showed a 19 percent increase from the three previous months in the number of security guards in Iraq hired by the Defense Department. The Central Command attributed the increase, from 10,743 at the end of March to 13,232 at the end of June, mainly to “an increased need for PSCs [private security companies] to provide security as the military begins to draw down forces.”

In its study, the inspector general’s office found that at 19 sites where private guards replaced soldiers, many more guards were needed to do the same job. It said the task order for Camp Bucca, primarily a detention facility, called for “417 personnel to free up approximately 350 soldiers for combat operations.” At Forward Operating Base Hammer, the task order called for 124 private guards to allow 102 soldiers to take on combat activities.

In some cases, as at Camp Taji, a major supply installation, the report says that more than 900 private personnel replaced 400 soldiers, but that the private guards took on additional tasks “to address deficiencies in existing site security.”

The United States also uses contractors when coalition forces withdraw. When Georgian soldiers left unexpectedly last August from a base near the Iranian border where they were providing security, private contractors replaced them.

The Central Command study found that of the armed private security personnel working in June, 623 were Americans, 1,029 were Iraqis and 11,580 were third-country nationals. Most of that group “were from countries such as Uganda and Kenya,” according to the inspector general’s report.

Under the new MNF-I contract, guards must be at least 21 years old, speak English “at a level necessary to give and receive situational reports,” and be an expatriate or an Iraqi, but the latter only when specifically allowed. Those who handle dogs used to inspect vehicles and search out explosives must be at least 25 years old and “must be expatriates.” Shift supervisors, who direct guard teams, must also be at least 25 and be fluent in reading and writing English.

The inspector general’s report shows that government estimates of the total cost of replacing soldiers with contractors are hidden in public accounting. The report notes that government services provided to the private guard force — food, housing and other benefits — are not considered, only payments going directly to the contractors. The report estimated that such services provided to private security personnel in the 12 months ending in March cost “more than $250 million,” at a time when listed outlays to the contractor firms in that period totaled $155 million.

In the new contracts, private contractors will continue to be allowed to use government dining facilities, living quarters, barber services, some transportation within Iraq and emergency medical care.

Another new contract, posted Sept. 3 for “Advisor & Atmospherics technical support services,” calls for providing information to senior commanders of U.S. forces in Iraq to assist them “in gaining a deeper understanding of the many complex issues across Iraq.” The aim is to provide “anecdotal information derived from varied native sources” so that commanders can become aware of “the Iraqi viewpoint of life in Iraq, the government of Iraq, U.S. forces, key events and other perceptions that are relevant to accomplishing the mission in Iraq.”

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

No Respect

Colonels’ Corner by Ollie North

OllieNo Respect

Bagram, Afghanistan —  It is amazing how a change of geography can alter perception. In the weeks leading up to this, my 16th FOX News deployment to cover the fight against radical Islamic terror, the news was full of attacks on civilian contractors. The target: Those who have been providing support for U.S. military and intelligence operations since Sept. 11, 2001.

“Contractor” is the new dirty word in the so-called mainstream media and in Washington. On Capitol Hill, contractors are the Rodney Dangerfields of the war – they just don’t “get no respect.” Here, where the war is being fought, contractors are regarded as essential to victory.

The attacks on civilian contractors didn’t begin with this summer’s hemorrhage of congressional leaks, sensational disclosures of classified information, threats of inquisitions and the appointment of a special prosecutor. Civilian contractors have been in the crosshairs of Congress since George Washington had to defend buying beans, bread, bandages and bullets from sutlers accompanying the Revolutionary Army. In the opening days of World War II, then-Senator Harry Truman became famous for threatening to “lock up” civilian contractors for producing sub-par munitions and President Dwight D. Eisenhower ominously warned against the threat of a “military-industrial complex.”

However, all that is pale by comparison to the viscera now being aimed at civilian contractors supporting the campaigns in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates and in the shadow of the Hindu Kush. Though the mainstream media and congressional critics initially ignored the essential role played by civilian security and logistics contractors in the opening months of Operation Enduring Freedom, they went into high dudgeon when the Bush administration began preparations for liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

It has gone downhill since.

Critics on the left are quick to point to events like the 2007 incident in Baghdad that led to the prosecution of security contractors for using excessive force in carrying out protective duties. On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have threatened to cut the budgets of federal agencies that use security contractors instead of government employees to protect key personnel and sensitive installations. At the Pentagon — which uses more civilian contractors in the war effort than any other U.S. government entity — the response to the criticism was capitulation.

In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to hire 30,000 additional Department of Defense employees to cut the percentage of work being done by contractors. The FY 2010 Defense Budget request replaces nearly 14,000 contractor personnel with government employees, even though the “lifetime cost” — counting government benefits and retirement — will more than double the expense to American taxpayers. The numbers don’t mesh, but when it comes to getting the press and politicians off the backs of Pentagon poobahs, cutting contractors loose is apparently a small price to pay.

Unfortunately, dollars may not be the only thing lost.

Last week, in the midst of the firestorm over U.S. intelligence agencies using private contractors, General Michael Hayden, CIA director from 2006-09, asked a telling question: “Who is the best individual available for this task at this moment?” With more than 30 percent of his former agency’s work being performed by contractors, the answer is obvious. He went on to note that the CIA uses contractors for their “very discreet skill sets” and “as an integral part of our workforce.”

The CIA isn’t alone. Here in Afghanistan there are more than 74,000 military contractors and the number is increasing as more U.S. and NATO troops “surge” into the theatre. Though it’s unlikely to make the lead story in any of the mainstream media, contractors are performing tasks that U.S. government entities either cannot do or that cannot be done as economically. A few non-sensational, but essential examples:

— The Afghanistan Border Police (ABP) has the mission of securing the country’s porous borders — an absolutely crucial task if the fight against the Taliban is to be won. The ABP is being recruited, screened, trained, equipped and advised by fewer than 140 private contractor personnel. To date they have deployed more than 3,600 new ABP officers.

— The Counter Narcotics Police and the Afghanistan Narcotics Interdiction Unit (NIU) are being mentored, trained and supported by fewer than 40 private contractors. These law enforcement units are key components in denying the Taliban and Al Qaeda revenues from opium production.

— In the 11 months since I was last in Afghanistan, private contractor aircraft have flown more than 12,000 sorties, delivering nearly 6 million pounds of cargo, 5 million pieces of U.S. mail and 59,000 personnel to installations around the country. Contractor aircraft have also air-dropped more than 640,000 pounds of urgently needed, food, water, ammunition, and medical supplies to troops on the battlefield. For last week’s presidential elections, contractor aircraft airdropped equipment and ballots to remote polling stations.

Like it or not, our modern, all-volunteer military cannot fight or even prepare to do so without civilian contractors. Propagandists for the left know it is no longer politically correct to attack young Americans in uniform, so they aim their viscera at military, logistics, security and intelligence support contractors instead.

Disparaging and de-funding civilian contractors is just one more way of disarming America, but at the end of the day, we won’t win without them.

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deadly contractor incident sours Afghans

Four men with the U.S. firm once known as Blackwater are said to be under investigation in the deaths of two Afghans. A U.S. report found serious fault with private security firms in Afghanistan.

Original Story here

By David Zucchino
5:58 PM PDT, August 12, 2009

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Mirza Mohammed Dost stood at the foot of his son’s grave, near a headstone that read, “Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans.”

His son was no insurgent, Dost said. He was walking home from prayers on the night of May 5 when he was shot and killed on a busy Kabul street by U.S. security contractors.

“The Americans must answer for my son’s death,” Dost said as a large crowd of young men murmured in approval.

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and another Afghan civilian by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence here.

Already enraged by the deaths of civilians in U.S. military airstrikes, many Afghans are also demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians.

As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war. With more than 70,000 security contractors or guards in Afghanistan and billions of dollars at stake in lucrative government contracts, the consequences of misconduct are significant.

A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan cites serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

The report says U.S. authorities in Afghanistan have not applied “lessons learned” in Iraq after a 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Iraq revoked the firm’s license, and five contractors face U.S. federal manslaughter and weapons charges.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has stepped up licensing of security contractors and is demanding stricter monitoring. The ministry says it wants limits on the number of contractors here, even as the Pentagon considers hiring a private security firm to provide more guards for its military bases.

Members of parliament, responding to complaints from constituents, have proposed legislation cracking down on contractors.

“They have caused some serious difficulties for the people,” said Fazlullah Mujadedi, a member of a parliamentary commission looking into security companies.

The extent of those difficulties is hard to gauge: The United Nations office in Kabul, the capital, didn’t break out contractor involvement in its recent report on deaths or injuries of civilians, and other agencies here don’t track such incidents.

In June, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. forces of killing a police chief and four police officers in the southern city of Kandahar. The U.S. military called it an “Afghan on Afghan incident” and said no U.S. forces were involved.

Such incidents have fed a sense among some Afghans that private gunmen are above the law — both Afghan and American. Security contractors are subject to Afghan laws, but the four contractors in the May shooting left for the U.S. before Afghan authorities could mount a case against them.

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities make sure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

The wartime contracting commission, set up by the U.S. last year, expressed concern over “limited U.S. government supervision” of private security contractors in Afghanistan. Many are unlicensed and unregulated, said Zemaray Bashary, an Interior Ministry official.

Anger toward hired gunmen runs especially high in Yaka Toot, a densely packed neighborhood in east Kabul, where residents are still simmering over the May shooting.

Residents say the U.S. contractors opened fire without provocation after one of their vehicles tipped over in a traffic accident. Killed along with Dost was Romal, 22, a passenger in a Toyota sedan on his way home from work. Like many Afghans, Romal used just one name.

Mohammad Shafi, a neighborhood elder who said he ran to the shooting scene that night, said the Toyota driver told him that the Americans ordered him to stop, then told him to move on. When the driver began pulling away, Shafi said, the Americans started shooting.

Dost, who was walking about 200 yards away, was shot in the head. No weapons were found in the Toyota, or on Dost, according to an Afghan police investigator.

“Some Americans think all Afghans are terrorists or insurgents,” Shafi said. “But if they keep killing civilians, I’m sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents.”

Daniel J. Callahan, a Santa Ana lawyer representing the four contractors, said the men fired in self-defense after one car rammed one of the contractors’ two SUVs, forcing it into a ditch, and a second car tried to run down two contractors.

Callahan accused Blackwater, now called Xe, of “trying to make them scapegoats to take the heat off Blackwater.” He said the company falsely accused the men of drinking alcohol that night.

In fact, Callahan said, Xe supervisors issued the four men automatic rifles and told them to escort Afghan interpreters home that night. He said military investigators found no evidence the men had consumed alcohol.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said in May that the four contractors, who trained Afghan security forces, were authorized to handle weapons only when conducting training. At the time of the 9 p.m. incident, he said, they were not permitted to have weapons.

Xe has said that the four men were fired for not following terms of their contract. An Xe spokeswoman, Stacy Capace, did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to say whether the contractors are under criminal investigation in the United States. Callahan said the Justice Department has told him it is conducting an investigation.

Callahan, who called the contractors “four good Americans,” identified them as Chris Drotleff, Steve McClain, Justin Cannon and Armando Hamid.

The Interior Ministry has licensed 39 security companies employing 23,000 people who are assigned 17,000 weapons. More than 19,000 of the employees are Afghans.

The U.S. military employs 4,373 private security contractors, according to the wartime contracting commission. More than 4,000 are Afghans, many of them former militia fighters who help guard U.S. and coalition bases.

The State Department employs 689 security contractors, most for U.S. Embassy security. American employees traveling in certain areas are protected by Xe contractors supervised by State Department security agents.

The U.S. spent between $6 billion and $10 billion on security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through 2007 alone, according to Congress.

In all, there are more than 71,000 security contractors or guards, armed and unarmed, in Afghanistan, said P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the subject.

Private security convoys are a common sight on Kabul’s traffic-clogged streets. Some race past in SUVs with tinted windows, sealing off traffic lanes and forcing motorists to the curb.

Many businesses hire uniformed guards armed with assault rifles. Kabul restaurants that cater to Westerners employ armed, uniformed guards who operate security gates and metal detectors.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, citing poor performance, fired its private security contractor, MVM, in 2007 and hired another American-owned company, ArmorGroup North America.

If U.S. or Afghan authorities don’t properly monitor companies such as Xe, those firms should answer in person to the families of civilians killed or wounded by contractors, said Raheb Dost’s aunt, who goes by one name, Friba.

“We want to confront them and ask them: Why do you think you’re allowed to do such a terrible thing?” Friba said, standing over her nephew’s grave.

Mirza Dost, the dead man’s father, said he was summoned to a police station in May to meet U.S. Embassy officials and Americans who told him they represented Xe. He said the Americans apologized and agreed to pay hospital bills for his son, who was in a coma but later died after 31 days in the hospital.

After his son’s death, Dost said, he was paid “a good sum of money”; he declined to elaborate. Shafi, the neighborhood elder, said the family of the other man who was killed was also paid.

Dost, who lost a leg to a land mine fighting the Soviet army in 1989, said his son was the family’s sole wage earner. He said he considered Xe’s payment fair compensation but was offended that neither the embassy nor Xe paid a condolence call after his son died.

“That’s our culture, but the Americans don’t know our culture,” he said.

Dost said he does not blame all Americans, but he is wary of any American contractors or U.S. forces he encounters on the street.

“They need to be more careful and show more respect for Afghan people,” he said.

Security contractors sign contracts making them liable for prosecution for violating Afghan laws. But Dost does not insist that the Xe contractors be tried in Afghanistan. Nor does his neighbor Shafi, the community elder.

“It wouldn’t make me happy to see them face Afghan justice,” Shafi said as young men from the neighborhood leaned across Dost’s grave to hear his pronouncement.

“What would make me happy,” Shafi said, “is to never have another innocent person killed.”

david.zucchino@latimes.com

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Audit finds contractor oversight improving in Iraq

y LARA JAKES (AP) – 9 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The government has kept a closer eye on U.S. contractors in Iraq since a deadly 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards, but it still needs to do a better job tracking and investigating when private security guards fire their guns, two new Pentagon audits have found.

The reports were released Tuesday by the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. They looked at the oversight of at least 13 U.S. firms working for the Defense and State departments between May 2008 and February 2009.

In perhaps the most serious lapse of oversight, one of the audits concluded, contractor watchdogs did not properly report and track the May 2008 death of an Army Corps of Engineers employee who was caught in a gunfight between security guards and al-Qaida suspects near Bayji, in central Iraq.

Pentagon auditors said the employee’s death should have been recorded in a database and triggered an Army investigation. U.S. officials in Iraq, however, said that was unnecessary if “the incident is caused by the enemy and does not involve a local national,” the audit found.

“Because of the lack of documentation, we could not determine if the incident was not investigated for the reasons cited by … officials or there simply is no record of an investigation,” the audit noted.

In all, contractor watchdogs did not record five out of 109 incidents where private guards fired their weapons during the 10-month period, the audit found. Moreover, the watchdogs’ database did not have evidence supporting 51 percent of the incidents reported.

Responding, the military’s Armed Contractor Oversight Branch in Iraq reported that it now tracks all serious incident reports of contractor shootings in its database, including 44 between February and June.

The reports ranged from 25 accidental shootings and the killing of a poisonous snake to 17 so-called “graduated force response” incidents that escalated into shootings. Of those 17, three have been referred for investigation, auditors found.

The second audit found that new rules for contractors that were put in place after the 2007 Blackwater shootings generally have helped oversight and coordination between private guards and the military.

Seventeen Iraqi civilians died in the notorious Blackwater shootings in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, an incident that strained U.S.-Iraqi relations. Blackwater is no longer operating in Baghdad, although it still has guards in some southern areas who are working under the company’s new name, Xe.

Five Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty in the shootings, which Justice Department prosecutors say was an unprovoked attack on civilians. The guards’ lawyers, however, say the five men believed they were under attack and acting in self-defense.

A sixth Blackwater guard struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to killing one Iraqi and wounding another.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Armed Security Guards/Private Security Providers

Armed Security Guards/Private Security Providers

Solicitation Number: ASG_PSC_First_Notice
Agency: Department of the Army
Office: Army Contracting Agency, ARCENT
Location: JLC Forward Contracting Office-Bagram
Synopsis:
Added: Jul 10, 2009 2:14 am

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION FROM PSC/ASG COMPANIES

July 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment