Pakistan: A Question Of Security
A US Senate report provided by the Senate Armed Services Committee questions the US reliance on Afghan private security firms. The Committee goes further saying the use of these private firms has helped to line the pockets of the Taliban. The report calls for immediate and aggressive steps to improve the vetting and oversight process.
Some 26,000 private security personnel, mostly afghans, operate hand in hand with the US
government and the many aid agencies. Supplying guards for diplomatic missions to supply
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate committee, said, "All too often our
reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan has empowered warlords, power brokers
operating outside Afghan government control. These contractors threaten the security of our
troops and risk the success of our mission,"
BBC's Steve Kingstone in Washington said, " that some of those hired have little training or
experience in firing weapons, while other contractors are warlords with known links to the
Taliban. One such person is said to have funded the Taliban and to have hosted a meeting with
a senior commander responsible for a wave of roadside bombs targeting NATO troops.
One very real concern the report highlighted was by funding warlords with their own private
militias - the US is undermining its declared aim of creating a more stable Afghanistan. It warns
that the growth of a lucrative private security industry has drawn new recruits away from the
Afghan police and army, where salaries are lower.
Doug Brooks, the president of a group that represents private security contractors,
said contractors in the field faced hard choices regarding who to employ. "If your option is
either using the local nationals who may be working for a local headman or warlord, or importing
somebody from another part of Afghanistan - which automatically makes them a target -you may
not have a whole lot of choice," he told the BBC's World Today. "There's an aspect to this, a best value aspect, that I think the US government has ignored for too long. The tendency among
Congress is simply to go for the cheapest things they can find, the cheapest contractors, and that
undermines I think the more quality contractors".
This latest report follows July's Congressional inquiry, which said that trucking contractors paid
tens of millions of dollars a year to local warlords for convoy protection.
In a related report coming out of Pakistan The owners of oil tankers being used to supply fuel
to NATO in Afghanistan say some of the attacks on their convoys are suspicious. They say there is evidence to suggest that bombs have been planted in many of vehicles by the "NATO contractors" - individuals or companies who have been contracted by NATO to supply fuel and goods to forces in Afghanistan. The extent of fraud seems to be wide spread. The following is part of a report by BBC's Riaz Sohail in Karachi:
[Dost Mohammad, an oil tanker owner from Nowshera district, said a NATO contractor had recently been caught trying to plant a bomb in an oil tanker. "This happened in the area of Paiyee, when he was putting the bomb under the vehicle." "At that time, a few men also opened fire on the tankers. The deputy later told the police that he had been told to plant the bomb by the contractor." Dost Mohammad said the contractor had apparently sold off the fuel first. "Only 2,000 litres from the original 50,000 litres had been left in the tanker to cover up the crime," Dost Mohammad said it is a win-win situation for the contractors. "If an old vehicle is burnt, NATO gives them money for a new vehicle. In addition, they receive compensation for all the fuel lost as well."]
Nowshera's police chief, Nisar Tanoli confirms some of this in a report that at least two known acts of blowing up oil tankers in his district have taken place. "One took place in Paiyee, and the other in the area of Watak near Akora Khattak," he said. "In both incidents the tankers were parked in the area for a couple of days. During this time, bombs were made in nearby houses and then used on the tankers."
"We have now arrested some drivers and their helpers," he said. "The people behind them are not residents in the district, but we have issued warrants for their arrest." He added that there have been incidents in which fuel for aircraft has been sold off. "The contractors later said it had leaked, or the tanker caught fire."