Archive for December, 2009
Obama’s Shadow Army Continues to Grow in Afghanistan
Now that it is officially Obama’s war, one might say it is also Obama’s privatized war. When President Obama announced his troop increase in Afghanistan on December 2nd he failed to mention the number of shadow army private military contractors that would be joining them. Even after the 30,000 soldiers arrive on the rugged terrain the total number of U.S. troops will still be less than the number of private contractors in Afghanistan.
The DoD’s latest figures on contractors in the country, according to a U.S. Central command spokesperson, is a staggering104,000, an increase of 30,000 over the figure released by the DoD in June of 2009. This amount is also expected to rise as additional U.S. soldiers are deployed. “There will definitely be an increase in the number of contractors,” stated David Berteau, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (The total U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan after the 30,000 arrive will be 98,000.)
It is estimated that the largest portion of the private contractors is made up of Afghans, over 78,000. The Central command estimates there are about 16,000 third country nationals and 9,000 U.S. citizen contractors. However, the number of U.S. citizens is difficult to nail down, because the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan says it is more like 14,000.
It is estimated that between 7% and 16% are gun carrying contractors like those that work for Triple Canopy, DynCorp, and Blackwater (Also known as Xe). The privately owned Blackwater Company is under several Federal investigation and they were fired from their Iraq security contract by the U.S. State Department, due in part to a 2007 killing of 17 innocent Iraqi citizens on a Baghdad Square. The shooting was found to be unjustified and unprovoked by the U.S. Justice Department investigation. Six of the Blackwater contractors responsible for the murders are now facing voluntary manslaughter charges and are expected to go to trial in 2010. And in May of this year two Afghan civilians were killed by Xe contractors. Despite all of this Blackwater is still receiving millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars with their contract to provide security for U.S ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and his staff.
Blackwater’s aviation division, Presidential Airways, is also employed in Afghanistan to airlift supplies to U.S. troops in remote outposts. It is estimated that Blackwater has made thousands of delivery runs since they were contracted for this service in 2006. The company is also responsible for training Afghan special police units.
An Army Times article entitled, “Trigger-Happy Security Complicates Convoys” points out some of the dangers caused by these private contractors operating in a war zone.
Sean Naylor reporting from Afghanistan states in the article, “Ill-disciplined private security guards (most of them Afghans) escorting supply convoys to coalition bases are wreaking havoc as they pass through western Kandahar province, undermining the coalition counterinsurgency strategy here and leading to at least one confrontation with U.S. forces say U.S. Army officers and Afghan government officials.” The report states that security guards are also responsible for killing and wounding more than 30 innocent civilians during the past four years in one district alone. The Afghan government’s district chief says the men who are hired to protect convoys are heroin addicts armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
Lt. Col. Jeff French, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment and Task Force Legion told the Army Times “They’ll start shooting at anything that’s moving, and they will kill innocent Afghans, and they will destroy property.”
Recently Hamid Karzai promised he would kick out all foreign private security firms and transfer their duties to Afghans within two years. However analysts believe he will be as powerless over these war profiteers as Iraq’s Maliki was when he tried to order Blackwater out of his country in 2007.
In addition to undermining the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan the lack of knowledge about how many contractors there are and about how much they are being paid paves the way for much fraud and waste of taxpayer dollars. This fact “permits and invites waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money and undermines the achievement of U.S. mission objectives,’ stated Michael Thibault, co-chair of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting during a November Congressional hearing.
Afghanistan has become the new gold mine for the private military and security companies as they collect hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars while operating without oversight, transparency, or any consequences for their human rights violations.
It truly has become Obama’s war, mercenaries and all.