By Richard Bodnar —
In a September 28, 2010, report, the Senate Armed Services Committee documented serious deficiencies in U.S. security contracting rules that have resulted in money being funneled to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Committee found that lack of oversight, along with incompetent and corrupt guards, created waste and allowed funds to be used for insurgent operations. The report recommended additional oversight and stricter contracting rules to help root out the problems.
The U.S. military relies heavily on private security contractors in Afghanistan for everything from trucking to protection of diplomats. Approximately 26,000 private security contractors work in Afghanistan, representing a significant part of the overall U.S. presence. The problem, according to the September report, is that many of these contractors hire inexperienced and corrupt local guards. Without oversight from the U.S. military, these guards use the funds and weapons provided to purchase opium; extort businesses and communities; and at times assist the Taliban, thereby thwarting the U.S. mission. While employing local Afghans cannot be entirely avoided for basic efficiency reasons, U.S. military commanders have grown increasingly concerned over the difficulty of relying on local contractors to advance U.S. and Afghan interests over their personal interests or those of the insurgency.
A Senate report released in June also highlighted significant corruption within the security contractor ranks. (Additionally, see this article in the Christian Science Monitor for reference to a Senate report released in February.) Companies engaged in private contracting are supposed to have their hires vetted by the U.S. military, but this process has clearly broken down in multiple instances, including in operations run by EOD Technology and ArmorGroup, two companies highlighted in the recent Senate report. Improvements in the vetting process have been suggested, as has reducing or even removing the role of contractors.
Perhaps in anticipation of this latest report, and in response to previous findings regarding contractor corruption, General David Petraeus issued new guidelines for NATO contracting in September. General Petraeus’s guidelines call for awarding contracts to a diversity of Afghan firms and barring contractors who have channeled money to the Taliban in the past. While not specific to security firms, the new guidelines represent a revitalized attempt to use contracts as a means of assisting the anti-insurgency mission while keeping U.S. funds out of the hands of the Taliban.
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