Archive for the 'Military Contractors' Category

Friends, Relationships and Changes

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 11 months ago

Tim Lynch gives us some bad news.

This will be my last post.  I’m afraid the blog has become too popular raising my personal profile too high.  We have had to change everything in order to continue working.  How we move, how we live, our security methodology;  all of it has been fine tuned.   Part of that change is allowing the FRI blog to go dark.  I have no choice; my colleagues and I signed contracts, gave our word, and have thousands of Afghan families who have bet their futures on our promises.  If we are going to remain on the job we have to maintain a low profile and that is hard to do with this blog.

This is hard news for me to hear.  While I understand the decision, I sincerely regret that Tim has come to this fork in the road.  Tim’s honesty, integrity, wisdom, insight, experience and knowledge of the situation makes his web site one of the very few must reads for those who follow Afghanistan.  Tim continues:

As is always the case the outside the wire internationals are catching it from all sides.  In Kabul the Afghans have jailed the country manager of Global Security over having four unregistered weapons in the company armory.   When the endemic corruption in Afghanistan makes the news or the pressure about it is applied diplomatically the Afghans always respond by throwing a few Expat security contractors in jail.  Remember that the next time our legacy media tries to spin a yarn about “unaccountable” security companies and the “1000 dollar a day” security contractor business both of which are now fictions of the liberal media imagination.

With time comes progress; especially on the big box FOB’s; but progress has served us quiet the dilemma.  We depend on our two fixed wing planes for transportation around the country.  Sometimes we are forced to overnight on one of the big box FOB’s where random searches for contraband in contractor billeting is routine.  All electronic recording equipment; cell phones, PDA’s laptops, cameras, etc… are all supposed to be registered in base with the security departments. But we aren’t assigned to these bases and cannot register our equipment.  Being caught with it means it could confiscated, being caught with a weapon would result in arrest by base MP’s.  Weapons license’s from the Government of Afghanistan aren’t recognized by ISAF; at least not on the big bases.

I’m not bitching because I understand why things are the way they are.  The military has had serious problems with shootings in secure areas.  Not one of those has been committed by an armed Expat but that fact is irrelevant.  Both the British and Americans have armed contractors working for them who have gone through specified pre-deployment  training and have official “arming authority”.  Afghan based international security types may or may not have any training and they certainly do not have DoD or MoD arming authority.  A legally licensed and registered weapon is no more welcomed on a military base in Afghanistan then it would be on a base in America.  Try walking around one with a legally concealed weapon and see what happens if you’re detected.  Just because you have a concealed carry permit doesn’t mean you’re welcomed to carry a loaded weapon onto a military installation in America.

But it should.  Having a concealed weapon permit should in fact mean that you can legally carry on military installations in the U.S.  If concealed carry was allowed Major Hasan might not have been able to pull off the carnage that he did.  Furthermore, regular readers know that I have advocated that Marines and Soldiers (other than just SAW gunners) carry side arms.  But even if I disagree with the policy, Tim is working within the system.  Continuing:

So it is time for me to go from blogsphere. After this contract it will be time for me to physically go.  I have a childlike faith in the ability of Gen Allen to come in and make the best of the situation he finds on the ground.  Maybe I’ll stick around to see it for myself – we have a long summer ahead and much can change.  But staying here means going back to Ghost Team mode.

I want to thank all of the folks who have participated in the comments section, bloggers Matt from Feral Jundi, Old Blue from Afghan Quest, Michael Yon, Joshua Foust from, Herschel Smith from The Captains Journal and Kanani from The Kitchen Dispatch for their support and kind email exchanges.  Baba Ken of the Synergy Strike Force for hosting me, Jules who recently stepped in to provide much needed editing, and Amy Sun from the MIT Fab Lab for getting me started and encouraging me along the way.  Your support meant an awful lot to me; I’m going to miss not being part of the conversation.

This is an interesting list of journalists, analysts and bloggers.  There are other admirable and prolific journalists whom I follow, e.g., Sebastian Junger and C. J. Chivers.  But none of the other journalists have contacted me, nor have any others answered my e-mails (Bing West, Tony Perry, David Wood, etc.) .  Many journalists make themselves highly inaccessible.

Not so for analyst and blogger Joshua Foust, and certainly not so for Michael Yon.  I have developed a relationship with both Michael Yon and Tim Lynch that means a lot to me, and it isn’t necessarily I who have contributed most of the work.  That’s what’s so significant about this.  Tim and those on his list are genuinely good guys.

I truly want Tim not to be a stranger, and I am honored that he made mention of me in his last post.  I will cherish that.  Take note that Michael Yon begins another embed on June 2 or thereabouts.  But there is one more person whom I want to mention.  I am embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until well into his captivity that I learned that James Foley (who writes for the Global Post) had been kidnapped in Libya.  Jim has now been released, and I am thankful for his safe return.  Jim is also a genuinely good guy, and I used his work in The Five Hundred Meter War (as well as other work by Jim in other posts).  Jim was eager to strike up a relationship with me via e-mail, and offered up kind words to me from day one.

I expect (and hope) that my friends stay in touch with me, and I also appreciate my readers.  I believe that I have some of the best on the web.  I appreciate your following my musings and analysis even as I evolve the web site into coverage and commentary on firearms and second amendment rights, as well as political observations.  But I will always cover and analyze military affairs, and especially the Marine Corps.  Ten years from now, when others have forgotten about Iraq and Afghanistan, I will still be following them, God willing, and if I’m still alive and writing.  And the Lance Corporal in the field under fire will always have an advocate in me.

Karzai Bans Security Firms

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

We have been stupid and allowed Hamid Karzai to do what he threatened to do in the interest of trying to create the perception of a viable government in Kabul.

The Afghan government said yesterday it has started dissolving private security businesses in the country by taking steps to end the operations of eight companies, including the one formerly known as Blackwater and three other international contractors.

“We have very good news for the Afghan people today,’’ presidential spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters in the capital. “The disbanding of eight private security firms has started.’’

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced in August that private security contractors would have to cease operations by the end of the year — wiping out an industry with tens of thousands of guards who protect military convoys, government officials, and businesspeople.

Some security contractors have been criticized for operating more like private militias, and the government said it could not have armed groups that were independent of the police or military forces.

The eight companies include Xe Services, the North Carolina-based contractor formerly called Blackwater, and NCL Holdings LLC of Virginia, Four Horsemen International of New Mexico, and Compass International of London, Omar said.

Two large Afghan companies, White Eagle Security Services and Abdul Khaliq Achakzai, are on the list. The remaining two companies are small operations with fewer than 100 employees, so he declined to name them.

Omar said many of the companies had turned in weapons, some voluntarily. He did not say why the eight had been chosen as the first to be closed down, and if any international companies had actually left the country. A statement issued by the president’s office was more strongly worded, saying that the process of closing down the eight companies was “almost complete.’’

An owner of White Eagle, Sayed Maqsud, said his company had handed over weapons for a contract that was completed but was still employing guards under another contract.

“We are not shut down. Only we gave up 340 weapons,’’ Maqsud said, explaining that the company’s contract to guard fuel convoys for American troops in southern Helmand province had ended. He said he fired 530 guards who had been working under that program when the contract finished and handed over the guns to the government.

However, he said they have another 1,200 guards protecting cellphone towers for South Africa-based mobile phone company MTN, with plans to continue that unless the government says they have to close down.

Karzai’s original decree on private security companies gave an exemption to companies that guard the compounds of international embassies or organizations. It was unclear what this means for companies on the list that also have contracts to guard US government installations or other diplomatic missions.

Omar said the government was focused on security companies that are providing protection for highways or convoys, not those training Afghan forces or guarding embassies. He said the national security forces are not yet able to protect embassies and international organizations.

The US Embassy in Kabul said it was looking into what the decision would mean for US government contracts.

The Afghan government has estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 armed security guards are working in the country. The Interior Ministry has 52 security companies licensed, but some older contracts are still being completed by unlicensed operations. About half of the companies are Afghan-owned.

I’m sure that this will end well.  I’m sure that this is “very good news for the Afghan people.”  I’m sure that the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police will be able to fill the gap.  And you know all about the Taliban having infiltrated the ANA and ANP, right?  And you know all about the inability of NGOs to perform their function due to the increase in security incidents, right?

I’m sure that this will end well for the campaign.

Concerning Military Contractors

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Hamid Karzai has ordered the disbanding of military contractors in Afghanistan.  I had written and asked Tim Lynch for his reaction, and he gives it to us here.

As the fighting season continues the good guys are losing more land and population to the various insurgent groups operating in the country.  Teams of doctors are being murdered in the remote provinces, attacks are launch inside the ANP “Ring of Steel” anytime the Taliban feels like it, and so where is the focus of the Afghan government?  On private security companies of course… yes why not?  Now is exactly the right time to make all PSC’s illegal and let the ANP and ministry of the interior (MOI) provide security to convoy’s military bases, and all the mobile security for internationals working in the reconstruction sector.  Ignoring that there are not enough Afghan security forces to go around as it is and also that their proficiency in preforming these tasks is suspect (to put it politely) what about the money?  We already pay for the ANP and ANA – if they are going to provide mobile and static security then I guess the millions of dollars being paid to private companies will no longer be needed right?  Right.  The problem is one can predict with 100% certainty what will happen if President Karzai goes through with this crazy scheme.  The logistics pipeline will start to rapidly dry up , internationals will be unable to move without their (mandated by contract) expat security teams and their projects will ground to a halt.  Military operations will have to be suspended because there will not be enough Afghan Security Forces to both fight and provide theater wide static and mobile security support. And of course there are yet more millions of dollars to add another chapter in the long saga of wasted OPM (other peoples money) by our respective governments.

I cannot for the life of me imagine how this law is going to work out.  There are (in my opinion) more international PSD teams then needed – why do EuPol police officers need PSD teams to drive them around Kabul?  They have guns and armored vehicles already and should be capable of taking care of themselves.  Why do the contract police trainers needs a whole section of dedicated PSD specialists? It is a crazy waste of money to have armed international PSD teams guarding armed ISAF personnel but it is also currently a contractual requirement.  For companies working outside the wire in the reconstruction sector the absence of international PSD teams will also have a huge impact on the ability to get insurance for their internationals at reasonable rates.  At exactly the time that internationals operating outside the wire need to be armed the laws are changing to make it illegal for internationals who are not ISAF military members to be armed.  How are we supposed to operate now?

Tim is accurate and smart in his assessment as always, but he is just being nice to Karzai.  Hamid Karzai is a stooge, and there is no possible way that this will work.  Logistics and force protection will break down.  We don’t have enough troops as it is, and that goes for contractors too.  Standing down even a portion of either category will spell death to the campaign.  In fact, there are approximately as many contractors as there are troops in Afghanistan, doing everything from intelligence to cooking, from force protection to FOB construction, from fire fighting to translation.  Whether KBR, Xe, Triple Canopy, Dyncorp, or smaller companies like Free Range International, contractors are needed, and needed badly.  Karzai’s plan will be stopped  before being implemented.

But that doesn’t mean that military contractors won’t be bilked by the U.S. government.  I am no defender of any particular company, and I have no dog in any particular fight.  I owe no one anything, and so Erik Prince can solve his own problems.  Xe (Blackwater) has never given me anything, and they don’t know me.  But the folks at the State Department do, and I get regular visits from their network domain.  “Show me the money” is the latest topic of interest.

That’s right.  The State Department has reached an agreement with Blackwater.

Blackwater, the private security firm founded by Holland native Erik Prince, reportedly has reached a $42 million settlement with the State Department over what is described as “hundreds of violations of United States export control violations.”

According to the New York Times:

The violations included illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers, according to company and government officials familiar with the deal.The deal would relieve Blackwater, now called Xe Services, from the possibility of facing criminal charges. Paying the fines will allow the firm to continue doing government contract work.

It does not, however, excuse Blackwater/Xe from the other legal issues currently pending, among them the indictment of former executives on weapons and obstruction charges and allegations the firm bribed Iraqi officials to win favor following the infamous 2007 slaying of 17 civilians.

The BBC provided more details on the more than 300 alleged violations:

• The investigation covered Blackwater’s business practices from 2005-2009 and found the company guilty of violating provisions of firearms licenses, violating terms of authorizations involving military or security training, unauthorized export of technical data and defense articles and record-keeping violations, among other things.

• A 2007 violation had national-security implications. Specifically, the company intentionally failed to disclose biographical information on Taiwanese nationals being trained as snipers. Similar instances appeared throughout the list of violations.

• In 2008, more than 100 weapons were missing or unaccounted for in Iraq. Elsewhere, weapons intended for U.S. military use were diverted to Blackwater employees.

Oooo.  Weapons charges.  Sort of like, you know, they had automatic weapons in a war zone, or something?  I’m sure that the State Department will want them to relinquish all automatic weapons.  But wait … maybe not.  You know, there is that little thing of U.S. troops being withdrawn from Iraq, and the State Department needing force protection.  From 6000 to 7000 more contractors in Iraq.  That’s how many.  The $42 million might go a long way towards funding this expense.

When private citizens do it it’s called extortion.  When the government does it it’s called arbitration.

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