Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Rights Groups Leery of Surge in Wartime Contractors

Three years after Blackwater security guards gunned down unarmed civilians in Baghdad, not nearly enough has been done to improve oversight and accountability of private contractors abroad, says a new report.

 

Inter Press Service

Three years after security guards from Blackwater, a private security contractor working for the U.S. Department of State, killed 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad, a leading human rights advocacy group is charging that not nearly enough has been done to improve oversight and accountability of private contractors abroad.

Its findings and recommendations come in a new report, "State of Affairs: Three Years After Nisoor Square," issued by Human Rights First.

The author of the report, attorney Melina Milazzo, told IPS that "the U.S. government has not done nearly enough to protect innocent civilians from trigger-happy contractors."

She added that it was urgent for Congress and President Barack Obama to take action before the planned increase in the number of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nisoor Square is the major intersection in Baghdad where the killings took place in September 2007. Twenty other unarmed civilians were wounded. The security contractor involved, Blackwater Worldwide – which later changed its name to Xe Services – subsequently was expelled from the country by the Iraqi government and banned from working there in the future.

As the U.S. continues its drawdown of troops in Iraq, the State Department plans to more than double the number of private security contractors it employs from 2,700 to 7,000. An additional 50,000 contractors – primarily working for the Department of Defence (DOD) – will be required to support the Afghan war.

The HRF report acknowledges that the Nisoor Square incident triggered some positive reforms in U.S. law and policy. For example, Congress has mandated greater agency oversight and coordination over private security and other contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Agencies have also, among other things, defined their responsibility for contractor oversight, increased their coordination over contractors, and established common principles governing contractor conduct.

But despite that progress, "serious deficiencies" in U.S. agencies' reporting, investigation, prosecution and oversight of serious contractor incidents persist. Agencies still do not accurately track the number of contractors and subcontractors fielded abroad. Private contractors already far outnumber U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report charges.

"Many oversight and accountability gaps persist three years after Nisoor Square, putting civilians at risk and undermining U.S. national security," said HRF's Milazzo,

"Congress and the administration must work together to put solutions in place before additional contractors are deployed," she urged.

Among the report's 19 recommendations:

Congress should enact the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) of 2010 (H.R. 4567, S. 2979) to expand criminal jurisdiction over and increase investigative resources for serious crimes committed by U.S. contractors.

Agencies should require oversight bodies to track all serious incidents reported, investigate and remediate when necessary, and maintain all supporting documentation relating to such actions taken.

The Department of Justice should commit additional resources to investigate and prosecute contractor crime and formally announce that prosecution of contractor crime abroad is a Justice Department national priority.

Publication of the HRF report comes barely a week after the NATO command issued new guidelines for awarding billions of dollars worth of international contracts in Afghanistan. A memorandum from U.S. Afghanistan commander David H. Petraeus said that without proper oversight, taxpayer funds earmarked for contractors could end up in the hands of insurgents and criminals.

He added that if "we spend large quantities of international contracting funds quickly and with insufficient oversight, it is likely that some of those funds will unintentionally fuel corruption, finance insurgent organisations, strengthen criminal patronage networks and undermine our efforts in Afghanistan."

With proper oversight, "contracting can spur economic development and support the Afghan government and NATO's campaign objectives," Gen. Petraeus wrote in the memorandum, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

Afghan and foreign private contractors provide a wide range of services to U.S. and NATO forces – everything from food preparation and service to helping to build large capital projects to providing security escorts to traveling government officials and VIP civilians.

No official figures are available from the U.S. government regarding the exact amount of money paid to contractors. But generally accepted estimates put the figure at about 14 billion a year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been outspokenly critical of individual contractors and of the international contracting process in general. He has charged that much of the money earmarked for important projects is siphoned off by high-priced contractors, subcontractors and brokers. The result, he has said, is that the Afghan people are being denied the benefits of these projects.

As noted by The New York Times, Afghans also complain that too many contracts are awarded to the same contractors.

This issue was also addressed in Gen. Petraeus's memorandum. "Contracts with a broader range of Afghan companies will help break monopolies and weaken patronage networks that breed resentment" among the Afghan people, he wrote.

He said, "In situations where there is no alternative to powerbrokers with links to criminal networks, it may be preferable to forgo the project."

The new guidance said that contracts should go to Afghans first and if the military cannot contract with an Afghan company, the company that is awarded the contract should be encouraged to hire Afghan workers and subcontractors.

Blackwater (Xe) recently agreed pay the U.S. government 42 million dollars for violations that include illegal weapons export to Afghanistan and making unauthorised proposals to train troops in southern Sudan, The New York Times has reported.

The company reportedly struck a deal with the U.S. State Department to pay the fine in order to avoid criminal charges. This will also allow it to continue to obtain government contracts, including work in Afghanistan.

Xe Services still faces other legal troubles, including the indictment of five former executives on weapons and obstruction charges.

Two former guards have also been charged with murdering two Afghan civilians.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Xe's most recent government contract tasked the group with protecting CIA bases in Afghanistan. The report was confirmed by CIA Director Leon Panetta during a TV interview, the newspaper wrote.

Blackwater (Xe) has become a kind of poster-child for suspect business practices in wartime. During Congressional hearings last year, it was revealed that the company's chairman, Erik Prince, has long had close financial and ideological ties to the administration of former President George W. Bush.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share