Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Iraq releases 3 security contractors

(AP)/CBS News  December 28, 2011

NEW YORK – Three security contractors including two Americans were released by Iraqi Army forces Tuesday after they were held for more than two weeks, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security announced as he demanded a full report on the episode.

Republican Peter King identified the men as Army veteran Alex Antiohos of West Babylon, N.Y., National Guardsman Jonas March of Savannah, Georgia and Kevin Fisher of Fiji.

King said they were working for a security firm when Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials rejected paperwork prepared on their behalf by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and began holding them on Dec. 9.

The men weren’t charged with any crimes and King said it appeared that the men were not injured.

He said Antiohos, who lives on Long Island, spoke to his wife Tuesday evening, and he was expected to be home later this week.

“She said he seems to be doing well,” he said.

King said they were released after efforts by his office, the State Department, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Defense Department and the White House.

He said he will demand answers from the Iraqis as well from U.S. authorities about how the incident was handled after they learned about the men.

“We’re going to have thousands of contractors over there, including many Americans. Can the Iraqis just take them off the street and hold them? This is a terrible precedent. We have to get to the bottom of this,” he said.

The New York congressman said he was concerned that U.S. military authorities had not been notified by the U.S. embassy that the men were being held and that embassy representatives had not visited the men when he learned about it from Antiohos’ wife last week.

“We have to find out if there could have been better coordination between all the agencies to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” King said.

U.S. troops completed a full withdrawal this month after nearly nine years of war.

“This should be a bit of a wake-up call as to whether the situation really is deteriorating in Iraq,” he added. “Iraq was supposed to be an ally. We liberated Iraq. Yet they hold these men for 18 days. … It’s inexcusable that they were treated this way by a supposed ally.”

Please see the original story here

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Security contractors accused of killing civilians to be retried

CNN Justice Jury selection begins Tuesday in the retrial of two U.S. security contractors accused of killing two Afghanistan civilians.

In September, a federal judge declared a mistrial in the case against Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon after the jury in the case said they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Drotleff and Cannon worked as security contractors for a subsidiary of Xe, the military contracting firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide.

Each were charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection with a May 2009 shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The 12-count, 19-page indictment returned by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia also included weapons charges against the two men.

Both Drotleff and Cannon were in Afghanistan working for the security company Paravant — a subsidiary of Xe — to help the U.S. Army train Afghan troops.

Drotleff, Cannon and two other contractors, Steven McClain and Armando Hamid, were driving their interpreters on a busy Kabul street called Jalalabad Road on May 5, 2009, when they said a car slammed into one of their two cars.  Please see the original here

The men said they got out to help their colleagues, and the vehicle that had struck the car did a U-turn and headed back at them.

The contractors said they fired at the oncoming vehicle in self-defense.

The incident spotlights the issue of the role and conduct of U.S. security contractors in Afghanistan.

A similar issue arose in Iraq after a September 2007 confrontation involving then-Blackwater contractors that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Blackwater lost its contract there after Iraq’s government refused to renew its operating license. The company then changed its name to Xe.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Xe | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan: Karzai Security Contractor Ban Could Assist Humanitarian Aid Work

October 28, 2010 – 2:24pm, by Aunohita Mojumdar Eurasianet.org

    President Hamid Karzai’s plan to shut down private security forces in Afghanistan has many military contractors and assorted peace-builders in a panic. But some humanitarian aid workers in the country contend that a ban isn’t such a bad idea.

    For years, non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan have condemned the militarization of humanitarian work, and have struggled to define a role that is distinct from the armed, for-profit development contractors in the conflict zone. Yet usually, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), contractors, humanitarians and development entrepreneurs have all been lumped together under the generic “aid worker” rubric. The Afghan government’s planned prohibition on private security companies (PSCs) could change that, helping to differentiate the humanitarians from other forms of development work.

    Foreign for-profit development contractors have threatened to pull out of Afghanistan, since the August decree issued by Karzai would prevent them from relying on private security companies for protection. Instead, they would have to depend on the Afghan National Police to provide security. The only exceptions would be for military bases and diplomatic missions.

    The ban was originally scheduled to take effect on December 17. But on October 27, Karzai agreed to push back the implementation deadline by two months. Karzai’s administration has come under intense pressure from Washington to relent on the ban.

    Representatives of various humanitarian aid organizations are not worried by the looming ban to anywhere near the same extent as are the for-profit contractors. Many have long been living with high risk in order to deliver their services. Some even say the demise of private security companies would be beneficial.

    “To the extent that it [the ban] helps to de-militarize the environment and to the extent that it reinforces the government’s monopoly on the use of force, I think ultimately it would be a positive thing,” Nic Lee, director of ANSO (Afghanistan NGO Safety Office), a non-profit humanitarian project that monitors safety conditions for the NGO sector, told EurasiaNet.org.

    “There is no type of armed action that is conducive to humanitarian activity,” Lee continued. “So the less armed activity you have is always going to improve humanitarian space and humanitarian access.”

    Many aid workers say they have a moral duty to work without armed protection in order to maintain their neutrality in a conflict zone. Of the 2,000 Afghan and 360 international NGOs operating across Afghanistan, “less than six use the services of a PSC, most commonly to provide unarmed guards at offices and homes,” according to ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief), an NGO umbrella organization.

    In a joint statement issued with ANSO on October 25, ACBAR sought to distance the non-profit NGO community from for-profit contractors, emphasizing “the ban on PSCs will have no negative impact on aid delivery by the vast majority of humanitarian NGOs.”

    While NGOs rely on the communities where they work to ensure their safety, the for-profit “development contractors” often depend on PSCs. Donors support their work as part of NATO’s counter-insurgency strategy, thus bringing them between the military and Taliban militants, and also muddying the waters between non-profit humanitarian work and for-profit development.

    These private development contractors receive the bulk of donor money flowing into Afghanistan largely from the US government’s development arm, USAID. Thus, major donors like USAID have been scrambling for a way to keep their “implementing partners” in the country. Some large USAID contractors like DAI (Development Alternatives, Inc.) have said they would have to close down some projects, if the ban is implemented. Other private development companies have complained to the US Embassy that their employees “will vote with their feet.”

    Donors suggest that their ongoing discussions with the Afghan government will lead to a compromise. But Karzai, despite delaying implementation of the ban, still seems determined to lock private security firms out of Afghanistan, calling them a menace to stability.

    Employing development contractors is a fundamental part of Gen. David Petraeus’ much-touted counter-insurgency strategy. Petraeus, the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, is said to be lobbying Karzai’s government for an exception to the ban that covers a wide array of peace-building activities.

    Even the United Nations is reviewing its programs to assess the ban’s potential impact. With UNAMA (the UN’s umbrella organization in Afghanistan) playing an overt political role, the mission has suffered increasing attacks. An attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul last October left six international UN workers dead. On October 24, UN security repelled an attack on a UN guesthouse in Herat, killing four armed insurgents. The UN hopes its own security forces will be exempted from the new rule.

    Not all donors use private security companies. The Indian Embassy, which has suffered two massive suicide bombings in the past three years, uses a combination of ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police, an Indian government paramilitary organization) and Afghan National Police to guard the embassy, as well as its projects.

    The Canadian government also indicated that a ban would have a minimal impact on aid operations that it sponsors. “Most of our development assistance implementing partners do not use private security firms,” a spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy said, adding that Ottawa had sought an implementation plan that would allow the international community to remain in Afghanistan while respecting the goals of the presidential decree.

    Please see the original story here

    Editor’s note:

    Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the past 19 years.

    October 28, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NGO's, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Wikileaks: British security contractors embroiled in chaos of war

    The chaos of war enveloped British and American security contractors, as well as coalition and local troops, according to documents released by Wikileaks.

    By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent Telegraph.co.uk
    A British firm, Aegis, is revealed as having suffered the highest losses of any private company. More than 30 of its employees died, according to an analysis by the New York Times, which was given full access to the files.

    Most of the dead were Iraqi drivers, guards and other employees.

    But it is a handful of American contractors whose actions will come under further scrutiny.

    In one incident, employees of a firm called Custer Battles fired at Iraqi security forces at a checkpoint, into a crowded minibus and at the tyres of a car that came too close to their own, all in one spree. No action was taken against them after they paid some compensation money to those affected.

    Blackwater, the company which earned notoriety after shooting dead 17 civilians in a square in Baghdad in 2007, is reported to have been seen “firing indiscriminately” in an incident the year before. In another case the same year, Blackwater security guards killed two civilians in a taxi “travelling at high speed”, causing demonstrations.

    In some cases, security contractors were themselves shot as a result of mistaken identity. Sometimes they just thought they were being shot at: one report, also from 2006, describes a particularly chaotic incident involving three large SUVs from the Triple Canopy security company.

    They were driving “at high speed” down a highway and tried to force a local vehicle out of their way by “bumping” it. It veered off but skidded back into the third SUV, sending it off the road.

    The security guards then thought they were under attack, and tried to destroy the damaged vehicle by throwing a grenade at it, setting it on fire and firing 40 rounds into it. A second local vehicle that was approaching in the other direction was then also fired on.

    Despite the force employed, the only injury recorded is a minor graze to the driver of the second car.

     

    October 25, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Potential compromise offered on Afghan private security ban

    Government Executive.com

    By Robert Brodsky rbrodsky@govexec.com October 25, 2010

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to back down on his pledge to disband all private security contractors operating in the country, but signaled during a weekend meeting that he could be open to a potential compromise.

    Karzai told foreign representatives, including Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to provide the Afghan government with a list of major projects that need protection, along with their security requirements, so that “appropriate measures” could be taken. It was not immediately clear if those measures would include an exemption for providing private security, and if so, how such a decision would be made.

    In mid-August, Karzai issued an order to remove all private security contractors from Afghanistan by Dec. 17, citing incidents of violence and questionable behavior by foreign guards. Afghanistan’s police and security forces — many of whom have been described as poorly trained and corrupt — would provide protection. Security firms working at foreign embassies and military bases would be exempt from removal.

    U.S. officials said they share Karzai’s goal, but argued his time frame is overly ambitious and could disrupt ongoing development projects.

    The Washington Post reported last week that U.S.-backed development firms have begun shutting down or suspending multimillion-dollar projects because of the ban.

    “We don’t think it’s had an impact at this time, and we certainly do not want to see development projects that are important to Afghanistan’s future affected by this decree,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said on Friday.

    Many firms working for the U.S. Agency for International Development already have submitted contingency plans outlining how they will to respond to the order, according to Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a contractor trade association with member companies operating in Afghanistan.

    Please read the entire story here

    October 25, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Legal Jurisdictions, NATO, NGO's, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

    EODT sued for $3M, accused of stealing shelters in Afghanistan

    By KnoxNews.com

    Posted October 24, 2010 at 11:19 p.m.

    Afghanistan isn’t the only place where EOD Technology is facing conflict with foreign forces.

    The Loudon County-based defense contractor finds itself under attack in a Knoxville federal court, accused of stealing at gunpoint more than $1 million worth of prefabricated shelters made from shipping containers used at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.

    The incident allegedly occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2009, when EODT security personnel stormed a compound used by a Kuwaiti prefab housing manufacturer in Kabul, Afghanistan. The lawsuit, which said the Kuwaiti company was paying EODT to protect the Kabul manufacturing compound, also claimed the EODT security guards loaded “housing modules” on 15 flatbed trucks while holding employees of the Kuwaiti manufacturer at gunpoint before leaving.

    The suit, filed late last week in U.S. District Court, further stated that EODT’s paramilitary personnel delivered some 90 housing modules to Bagram Air Field, where they are being used by U.S. service personnel, before Afghan police “halted further thefts.” EODT is a contractor to the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan.

    Kuwaiti temporary housing manufacturer MAKS Inc. General Trading & Contracting Co. and co-plaintiffs Gopalakrishna Pillai Ajeesh Kumar Kammarayil and Mohammed Azad Shabbir – who are India natives and MAKS employees – and three unidentified Afghan employees of MAKS are seeking compensatory and punitive damages of at least $3 million in the 11-count suit that accuses EODT of, among other things, assault, false imprisonment, negligence and breach of contract.

    EODT contracted with MAKS to build and transfer 224 prefab housing modules and MAKS is awaiting payment of more than $2 million, the lawsuit states.

    The plaintiffs say EODT and its subsidiary EODT General Security Co., EODT officials Matt Kaye and Mark Anderson and three unidentified security guards are responsible for launching the military-style invasion of their Kabul construction facility.

    Neither EODT nor its officials named in the lawsuit could be reached for comment.

    In the lawsuit, MAKS said EODT contracted with it in February 2009 to provide the temporary housing modules and then in June 2009 MAKS contracted with EODT General Security Co. to provide security for the Kabul construction facility. MAKS describes the plaintiffs as incompetent in carrying out their duties of providing proper management and security oversight in the construction of the housing units.

    MAKS acknowledges that EODT raised objections to MAKS’s fabrication of the housing units in Kuwait and some of the materials used before they were shipped to Afghanistan.  Original story here

    October 25, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , | 1 Comment

    The Next Baghdad Boom

    As US troop levels begin to wind down, the number of private military contractors in Iraq expands, resulting in a new industry boom and unclear prospects for Iraq’s security, Jody Ray Bennett reports for ISN Security Watch.

    By Jody Ray Bennett for ISN Security Watch

    In hopes of making good on a campaign promise just months before the November elections, President Barack Obama successfully oversaw the last of combat troops depart from Iraq just a few weeks shy of the 31 August deadline. While 50,000 soldiers will remain in Iraq as ‘advisors,’ private security contractors will likely more than double in the country to provide personnel and convoy protection and train Iraqi police and other security forces.

    A 12 July report issued by the Commission on Wartime Contracting (COWC) in Iraq and Afghanistan found that the presence of private military contractors in Iraq- companies like Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy and Dyncorp – will increase in number as US military forces complete their exit from Iraq by 31 December 2011.

    Governance of the Iraqi occupation has slowly been transitioning from Pentagon to State Department control, and in a statement by commission chairmen, “Assuming no change in [the Department of State] mission, the department’s only realistic option for dealing with the U.S. military’s exit is to make much heavier use of contractors,” concluding that, “the department would need to more than double [the contractor] force to 6,000 to 7,000 people to handle its needs in the future.” That figure is compared to the current “2,700 private security personnel in Iraq to augment its own diplomatic security force.”

    A more expensive footprint

    Indeed, without private contractors, the Department of State finds itself in something of a conundrum.Defense News aptly noted that the State Department “appears to have little choice [as] it lacks its own force of personnel to fly helicopters, disarm bombs or provide dozens of other services that military personnel now provide [especially when] the military is scheduled to reduce its Iraq footprint to 50,000 troops in August and be out of that country by the end of next year.”

    And now that this has already happened – and ahead of schedule – the demand for private military and security personnel is already ramping up as troops pull out.

    “Given the broad military mission the U.S. has, coupled with the lack of a draft, there is no doubt we actually need more, not less, private military contractors. The recent news about the contractor force that will be left in Iraq is a perfect example of how we seem to be substituting private military contractors for our regular military. We’re not really leaving Iraq – we’re changing our official presence there,” Fouad Pervez, PhD student in International Relations at Georgetown University and contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, told ISN Security Watch.

    By its own standards, the COWC report made further conclusions after making concessions concerning the development of the Iraqi government and its ability to transform the country into a stable, functioning state:

    “Unless and until the Iraqi government develops suitable capabilities for support, increased contracting by [the Department of State] would entail great increases in expenditures, challenges of executing and overseeing contracts, and possibilities for unneeded and wasteful spending. In addition, inadequately staffed and resourced oversight could multiply opportunities for contractor mistakes or misconduct that might alienate Iraqi opinion and undermine U.S. policy objectives.”

    Just three days after the Commission’s report, the Office of General Inspector in the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperationblacklisted 146 companies and contractors for submitting to it falsified documents for operation.

    Layered responsibility

    In June 2010, vehement critic of the private military and security industry, Jeremy Scahill reported that since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, “there has been a 23% increase in the number of ‘Private Security Contractors’ working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan,” citing statistics provided by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

    In a press release, the COWC stated that: “Fragmentary data – the best the government has – suggest that at least a third of the roughly 200,000 contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan work for subcontractors. Because the federal government has no direct contractual relationship with subcontractors, it has limited visibility into who they are and what they are doing. Prime contractors are legally responsible for managing subcontractors, but the primes’ internal controls and the effectiveness of federal oversight have often been inadequate.”

    And this will likely affect public opinion of the American presence in Iraq.

    “The overall problem [has to do with] PMCs and how [they] affect foreign policy. The bigger problem isn’t [companies like] Blackwater, it’s the mission. PMCs give political leaders an easy out because they are rarely held accountable for their deaths (as compared with U.S. military deaths). This allows a distortion of public opinion on conflict. If the public doesn’t see the face of war (which is precisely what happens when you privatize the conflict, since the press doesn’t really cover PMCs), war can continue when it would have been seriously challenged and possibly halted before due to public pressure,” Pervez said.

    Original Story here

    August 24, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , | Leave a comment

    Industry Talk: Afghan Government Says Four Months To Disband All Private Security Firms

    By Matt at Feral Jundi

    About 26,000 armed security contractors work with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, including 19,000 with the U.S. military, Boor said. The majority of military contractors protect convoys, though some also provide base security, said Maj. Joel Harper, a spokesman for NATO forces.

    Karzai has said such responsibilities should fall to either enlisted military or police, though it’s unclear how soon Afghan forces would be ready to take on additional jobs.

    Boor said private contractors were needed right now to keep development projects and military operations running.

    “Since the Afghan army and the Afghan police are not quite at the stages of capability and capacity to provide all the security that is needed, private security companies are filling a gap,” Boor said.

    *****

    I think this will have disastrous consequences if the whole thing is torn down in four months. What perplexes me is that Petraeus is talking with Karzai on an almost daily basis according to the general’s latest interviews. Why is no one telling Karzai and company what the reality is on the ground, or how important security contractors are to the war effort? In essence, because there is such a massive requirement for security and training, and the Afghan police and military already have plenty of work to do when it comes to actually fighting or policing, I am just kind of curious how Karzai magically expects this vacuum to be filled? Will he be making all of his military and police into guards and teachers, and have NATO and ISAF do all of his fighting and policing for him?

    But hey, it’s his country and maybe all the companies should just throw down their weapons all at once. lol If Karzai wants to be popular, this is a great way to do it for about one day. Because as soon as all the reconstruction forces refuse to go out and do anything because of a lack of security, the people will slowly start to understand what was the cause of that. There is an aid machine, and it will shut down if you mess with it. And as the Taliban take advantage of this broken aid machine, they will tell the people that Karzai is the cause of their discontent. So he might think this is a good political move right now, but this will backfire on him in the future and lead to him being removed. If not by another politician, it will be by the Taliban.

    Now the correct way for security contractors to be removed is for a conditions based withdrawal, much like with today’s military forces. A July 2011 withdrawal makes no sense, much like a 4 month withdrawal makes no sense with security contractors. There is a right way to do this, and a wrong way, and success is the only way for a withdrawal to happen. Anything else is a date of victory for your enemy.

    Now of course there could be other factors at play and this is way too early to really make an accurate assessment. This could be part of the political negotiation process sparked by the anti-corruption teams that have threatened the Karzai inner circle. Or it could be a move to get more recruits for government forces by dissolving Afghan PSC’s. Stay tuned and we will see how this plays out. Hopefully Tim and other Afghan hands can chime in on what he has heard, or what he thinks is really going on.-Matt  Visit Matts Blog Feral Jundi

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

    US backs Afghan plan to ditch security contractors

    Associated Press KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military supports the Afghan government’s plan to dissolve private security companies and is tightening oversight of its own armed contractors in the interim, an official said Monday.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called repeatedly for banning private security companies, saying they undermine government security forces. Contractors perform duties ranging from guarding supply convoys to personal security details for diplomats and businessmen.

    A presidential spokesman said last week a deadline to abolish private security contractors was imminent. In his inauguration speech in November, Karzai said he wanted to close down both foreign and domestic security contractors within two years.

    As in Iraq, the conduct of security contractors in Afghanistan — particularly those working with U.S. forces — has been a source of tension, with complaints that they are poorly regulated and effectively operate outside local law.

    “Certainly we understand President Karzai’s statements that he is determined to dissolve private security companies. We are committed to partnering with the government in meeting that intent,” said Brig. Gen. Margaret Boor, head of a new task force to better regulate and oversee private security operations. The group, called Task Force Spotlight, started work in June.

    However, Boor declined to give a timeline saying private security contractors can only be phased out as the security situation improves. That could be a long time given worsening security in recent months in areas of northern and central Afghanistan that had previously been relatively safe.

    About 26,000 armed security contractors work with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, including 19,000 with the U.S. military, Boor said. The majority of military contractors protect convoys, though some also provide base security, said Maj. Joel Harper, a spokesman for NATO forces.

    Karzai has said such responsibilities should fall to either enlisted military or police, though it’s unclear how soon Afghan forces would be ready to take on additional jobs.

    Boor said private contractors were needed right now to keep development projects and military operations running.

    “Since the Afghan army and the Afghan police are not quite at the stages of capability and capacity to provide all the security that is needed, private security companies are filling a gap,” Boor said.

    Though the task force is new, she said it is already taking steps to improve oversight of security firms, including registering all contractors and ensuring they have the necessary qualifications and receive training on appropriate use of force. “Read the entire story here”

    August 16, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , | Leave a comment

    Contractors Pressured to Perform in Iraq Without Valid Credentials

    Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic

    The United States is rapidly drawing down troops in Iraq, and contractors are picking up the slack. DynCorp International, in particular, employs hundreds of ex-soldiers and cops to act as bodyguards and shepherds for State Department personnel across the country. The company also trains Iraqi police forces.

    DynCorp is under intense pressure to perform without blemish. Private security companies and their employees are under scrutiny from both the U.S. and Iraqi governments more than ever before because of a string of incidents. Within the military, soldiers who quit to join these companies are derided as “mercs.” The culture among DynCorp’s ranks is similar to that of elite military units — what happens out there stays out there. It’s dangerous. Contractors get killed and injured with regularity. The pay is OK — it starts at $90,000 a year — and the working conditions — living in tents, eating MREs — are harsh. State Department officials have told me that the U.S. is generally pleased with DynCorp’s performance so far … but DynCorp is pretty much the only company that can do what State needs it to do.

    But one member of an elite unit, a former Army Ranger who asked not to be identified, is concerned that DynCorp and the U.S. government are cutting corners unnecessarily.

    The U.S. government is responsible for coordinating the vehicle credentialing and registration process with the Iraqis. Iraq’s new bureaucracy changed its rules, delaying the renewal efforts. DynCorp International’s team leaders are not supposed to leave their bases without valid credentials, period — no matter the reason.

    The decals are important — they allow U.S. and Iraqi troops to see their vehicles as belonging to friendlies.

    If the decals are out of date and the licenses are expired, DynCorp’s folks can find themselves arrested, or worse. In December, when decals expired, the company continued to operate until a DynCorp team member was arrested, according to this employee.

    Vehicle decals and licenses issued by the Iraqi government again expired on August 1.

    And yet, according to the ex-Ranger, team leaders on Monday were instructed by the State Department to continue sending out teams. “Hopefully, no one gets hurt due to this,” the DynCorp employee said. The implicit message, according to the ex-Ranger, was that either the teams go out or they go home — fired, back to the United States.

    I was not able to reach State Department officials in Iraq, and e-mails sent to the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq were not returned. DynCorp, however, responded fairly quickly to my inquiry.

    “At the direction of our customer, the U.S. Department of State, as of August 3, 2010, [Dyncorp] has suspended operations with vehicles that have expired stickers,” a company spokesperson said in a statement:

    The safety and security of all DynCorp International (DI) personnel who have bravely chosen to work in remote and often hostile environments is a top priority for the Company. In Iraq, our teams have volunteered to operate in a warzone performing dangerous but vital tasks in support of a number of U.S. government programs. We provide the safest possible environment for our personnel by working closely with the Iraqi government to obtain all licensing and certifications that are required to operate in Iraq.

    DynCorp says that its licenses with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, the Kurdish ministry of the interior, and various other organizations are “all in good standing”:

    “Both the U.S. government and the Iraqi [government] have assured us that the administrative process to receive an additional written extension is underway.”  Original Here

    August 5, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Three Security Contractors killed in Green Zone Rocket Attack

    Rocket attack on Baghdad Green Zone kills three

    The dead and wounded are all employees of the US contractor Triple Canopy.

    Two Ugandans and a Peruvian died, and two Americans were among the those wounded when the rocket struck on Thursday.

    Triple Canopy, based in Herndon, Virginia, guards security checkpoints for US military facilities in Iraq.

    The firm was founded by US special forces veterans.

    Rueters

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A rocket attack on Baghdad’s international Green Zone on Thursday killed two Ugandans and a Peruvian working for a security contractor hired to protect U.S. facilities in Iraq, the U.S. embassy said.

    Fifteen other people, two of them American, were wounded, all employees of the security contractor, the embassy said in a statement.

    July 22, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Security boss leaves Canadian project in Afghanistan

    Mitch Potter The Star Washington Bureau

    WASHINGTON—Another senior security boss has left Canada’s troubled signature project in Afghanistan — and this time the departing sentry is a former British commando with a storied resume that includes bodyguard duty for Michael Jackson, the Beckhams and the Saudi royal family.

    Lee McNamara confirmed Tuesday he is no longer involved in the $50-million effort to restore Kandahar’s vital Dahla Dam irrigation project, telling the Toronto Star, “I’m done.”

    McNamara’s departure follows a rash of resignations and dismissals in the wake of a Feb. 20 confrontation in Kandahar City between the project’s Canadian security overseers and armed men working for Watan Risk Management, a controversial security firm owned by relatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

    The confrontation ended with two Canadian security overseers — Curtis Desrosiers and Mike Hill — fleeing the country and returning to Canada in fear for their lives. One day later their boss, Alan Bell, a Toronto-based security consultant with Globe Risk International, resigned his position and also returned to Canada.

    All three have refused comment on what other insiders described as “the day Canada lost control” of the project.

    Read the full story here

    June 17, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Private Security Contractor | , , , , | 1 Comment

    Mercenary given death sentence

    Matt Williams at The Independent

    Two mercenaries, one of them British, were sentenced to death by a Congolese court yesterday for allegedly killing their driver.

    Joshua French, 28, who has dual British and Norwegian nationality, and Tjostolv Moland, 29, a Norwegian, face execution by firing squad after being found guilty of espionage and murder.

    Both worked as security guards in the African country. Their driver, Abedi Kasongo, 47, was murdered in May 2009 and they were arrested as they tried to flee. They claimed Mr Kasongo was shot dead by robbers who attacked their car.

    Their initial death sentences were quashed in April but a second trial was ordered. Yesterday the pair were again sentenced to death – but campaigners called the hearing “a farce”.

    The legal rights charity Reprieve claimed both men suffered miscarriages of justice, saying French was subjected to a mock execution before being forced to sign a confession. Moreover, he suffers from cerebral malaria, has hallucinations and believes he is in spiritual contact with a Pygmy.

    French, who spent his childhood in Margate, Kent, trained as a British paratrooper before serving in the Norwegian army, where he met Moland. Both left the forces in 2007 and worked as private security guards.

    Last night, the British embassy in Kinshasa said it was disappointed with the verdict. A spokesman added: “We are in close contact with the lawyers and will raise any fair trial issues they come across and continue to make representations on Mr French’s behalf.”

    June 11, 2010 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    CNAS on Contracting

    By David Isenberg at the Huffington Post

    Yesterday the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New American Security released a report “Contracting in Conflicts: The Path to Reform” on the use of private contractors in conflict zones written by CNSAS Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine and CNAS President John Nagl, a retired Army officer who served in Iraq.

    I think this is quite an excellent report and I recommend it both for gaining useful background reading on the subject as well as for some of its recommendation. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was a participant in working group sessions designed to help inform this project.)

    Let’s start at the beginning. The authors make the same point I made in my book, one that is rarely grappled with directly. The explosive growth of the use of private contractors by the U.S. government in recent years is not due to the quest for profits or even the privatization model run amuck. It is about American foreign policy. Please read the full post here

    June 10, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , | Leave a comment

    Security Contractors War Zone Blogging

    Meet the New Frontline Bloggers: Security Contractors

    By Noah Shachtman  The Danger Room

    The frontline soldier blogs have largely come and gone — victims of the military’s confusing, often contradictory, approach to social media. But you can still get unfiltered reports, straight from Afghanistan’s warzones. Private security contractors are now writing the new must-read online diaries from the battlefield. And they’re as raw and brutally honest as anything written by a blogger in uniform.

    While support for the troops has been near-universal in our current words, contractors have been demonized as lawless, bloodthirsty guns-for-hire. (It’s a trap I’ve been accused, not without reason, of falling into myself.) These blogs show how shallow that stereotype can be.

    Today was a bad one – so many things happening all at once and I’m feeling the pressure.  I feel a bit like a spinning top and am experiencing that classic loneliness of command in that I have no-one I can vent to or confide in.  I have to stay cool and in control, keep a smile on my face and boost the rest of the lads when they are feeling the pressure. It’s bloody hard to do some days,” writes the pseudonymous “Centurion” on his blog, Kandahar Diary.

    A BBIED (suicide bomber) walked into the middle of one of my convoys today, stuck in traffic on Route 1, and detonated. One guard KIA, 4 WIA (seriously).  Not long after, a truck on another convoy tripped an IED – damaged vehicle, nil injuries – and my guard force travelling [sic] from here to Ghazni were contacted by fairly heavy small arms fire – thankfully, no injuries….

    As this was all happening I was scratching my head on a budget reconciliation.  The whole exercise seemed kind of pointless to me given what was happening on the ground, and I found myself contemplating the budget line item simply titled ‘Coffins’.

    …I’m thinking a lot about home and L and the kids.  I miss them terribly and worry how they are coping without me.

    The best known of these contractor-bloggers is Tim Lynch (pictured). He owns the small security consultancy Free Range International, currently operating in Afghanistan. As an independent operator, he’s able to publicly critique the war effort in ways that most bloggers in uniform can’t. “Our fundamental problem in Afghanistan is that we are fighting on behalf of a central government which is not considered legitimate by a vast majority of the population,” Lynch wrote in a recent post.

    And to make matters worse, he added, the majority of the American-led International Security Assistance Force are holed up in concrete-reinforced Forward Operating Bases, where picayune rules about dress code, chow hall passes, and speed limits seem to occupy more minds than the fighting outside.

    Napoleon said that in war “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.” This is the consequence of fronting a government which abuses the population and international guests alike.  If the ISAF soldiers were methodically clearing areas of Taliban and then assisting in the establishment of law and order, governance and services which serve the people, and that the people appreciate, we would be achieving moral ascendancy.  But that is impossible because the vast majority of troops are based on FOB’s and never leave them, and there is no legitimate government with which to entrust areas we have cleared.  So now that we are unable to do what is important, the unimportant has become important and the mark of military virtue is the enforcement of petty policies like the mandatory wearing of eye protection at all times while outdoors.

    The blogging contractors represent only a small minority of the tens of thousands of hands-for-hire employed by western militaries in Afghanistan. Most of the security firms have strict prohibitions against discussing their business in public. But the ones that do talk can be just as harsh as Lynch. Take “Paladin Six,” who writes at Knights of Afghanistan.

    “Basically, everyone here, from the lowliest shopkeeper to the highest government official is in a mad scramble to grab every Afghani, rupee, ruble and dollar that they can get their hands on before ISAF finally bails out and this place returns to the Dark Ages from whence it came,” he writes. “Yeah, I’m looking at you [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai. And your scumbag brother too.”

    These writers don’t just bitch about the military and their partners in Kabul. Lynch, in particular, is an equal-opportunity basher of the boneheaded. “There is a group of rogue contractors working the border from Spin Boldak to Kandahar who are apparently shooting small arms indiscriminately.  They are an all Afghan crew, off duty ANP [Afghan National Police] soldiers are working with them, and they are on an ISAF contract.  It is up to ISAF to put a stop to this and to do so immediately.  But they can’t because nobody seems to know who these clowns work for,” he writes in one post.

    In another, he takes aim at the local militants.

    Yesterday morning started with an event so senseless and evil that it is hard to describe.  An American army patrol was moving through downtown Jalalabad when the villains detonated a bicycle mounted IED.  This IED had no chance of even denting the paint job on an MRAP [armored vehicle], but it did throw out a bunch of shrapnel, which killed one of the best diesel engine mechanics in town and wounded another 15 civilians – mostly children.

    I drove up behind the convoy a few minutes after the attack.  They had stopped, dismounted and were treating the injured…  Once I saw where the bomb had gone off I was stunned – the traffic circle is full of children at that time of the day.

    “The good people of Jalalabad were pissed off about the bike bomb, but not enough to stage a protest and shout “death to the Taliban,’” Lynch continued in another post.  “That is the critical dynamic with which to judge how the people feel about us and the assorted groupings of bad guys who cause them much more grief and hardship, in their reaction to loss of life through stupidity.  When people react with spontaneous outrage to Taliban killings, then we will know the tipping point is well behind us.”

    There was a time when U.S. troops had the market all-but-cornered the market on these first-person anecdotes and war-hardened analyses. But like so much else, that effort has now been outsourced to contractors.  Original Story Here

    May 6, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments