America

Guards Guarding US Afghan Bases Turn Out To Be Taliban, Warlords And Criminals

A US soldier in Afghanistan.

A US soldier in Afghanistan. Rodrigo Abd/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rodrigo Abd/AP

They are everywhere in Afghanistan. Subcontracted Afghan guards hired by the US to guard American military bases. And now, it turns out, many of them are linked to the Taliban, criminal networks or Iranian intelligence. A new report from the Senate Armed Services Committee finds that there is little oversight by the Pentagon of these forces. As a result Americans have been exposed to surprise attacks, plotted by the very people they are paying to guard their bases. Some of the guards are also linked to murder, kidnapping, and bribery.

Besides active problems, there are also passive ones. The report also found instances of untrained private guards, unserviceable weapons and unmanned posts.

There are some 26,000 private security contractors working in Afghanistan, the vast majority have US government contracts. And most of those aren't vetted and often unsupervised.

Just one example from the report. In August, 2008, American forces went on a raid to capture a high value Taliban target who was attending a meeting. The fighting was fierce. A lot of people died. When the dust settled, it turns out the meeting was being held at them home of one of the leaders of a guard force paid by the Americans. A man the Americans simply called "Mr. White" as they didn't even know his real name. They'd started to call the leaders of the various forces after characters in Reservoir Dogs. And yes, there was a Mr. Pink too, he turned out to be "mid-level Taliban manager."

Oh, and the forces that Mr. White led? They were fired by one security contractor, only to be hired by another, so they once again got a western paycheck. The company, AGMA, a subsidiary of Armor Group, decided Mr. White's brother was "a man we could do business with."

Chairman of the SASC released a statement saying, “We need to shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and powerbrokers who act contrary to our interests and contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the Afghan people for their government."

In response, Defense Secretary Robert Gates released a letter, saying the DOD had already addressed the issue. "Through the new programs we have implemented, I believe D.O.D. has taken significant steps to benefit our forces on the ground while not providing aid to our enemies," he wrote.

Anyway, there are a ton more stories of such unbelievable situations in the report that you think you're reading the script to a terrible caper movie. Terrible because you just can't believe anything this insane could possibly go on. Definitely worth reading the whole thing.

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