Not only are we hiring too many contractors in Afghanistan — we’re also hiring the wrong ones. A year-long probe into the hiring practices of Afghan private contractors released Thursday has found that some had hired lackeys loyal to warlords involved in kidnapping, murder and the Taliban. “There is significant evidence that some security contractors…worked against our coalition forces, creating the very threat they are hired to combat,” said Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the panel. “These contractors threaten the security of our troops and risk the success of our mission.”
The likelihood that bad actors are among the 26,000 security contractors employed in Afghanistan — many of them native Afghans — has always been suspected. That’s because across much of the country, most able-bodied men are allied with their local warlord or his rival. Those hired provide security for the U.S. bases sprinkled across the country, as well as helping to escort supply convoys.
At the Shindand air base in western Afghanistan, ArmorGroup North America tapped competing warlords to supply the manpower needed to guard the post. (“In order to be fair to both factions,” ArmorGroup “employed a total of 44 local national armed guards on the base, 22 from each faction,” a company executive noted at the time.) The guards and their warlords were allegedly involved in murder, attacks and bribery while on the U.S. payroll.
One of the warlords hosted a 2008 Taliban gathering raided by the U.S. military and its Afghan allies. “A post-raid U.S. Army investigation found that some of the anti-coalition militia `may have been security contractors or subcontractors for ArmorGroup’,” the report said. In fact, eight personnel on the ArmorGroup payroll “were killed in the operation. In addition, a search of the raid site revealed `extensive stores of weapons, explosives, [and] intelligence materials.'” President Hamid Karzai complained about the attack. President George W. Bush called him to apologize.
And these are the folks on our side.