Senate Report Slams Afghan Security Contractors

Heavy U.S. reliance on private security in Afghanistan has helped to line the pockets of the Taliban because contractors often don't vet local recruits and wind up hiring warlords and thugs, Senate investigators said Thursday. The finding, in a report by the Senate Armed Services Committee, follows a separate congressional inquiry in June that concluded that trucking contractors pay tens of millions of dollars a year to local warlords for convoy protection. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate panel, said he is worried the U.S. is unknowingly fostering the growth of Taliban-linked militias at a time when Kabul is struggling to recruit its own soldiers and police officers. "Almost all are Afghans. Almost all are armed," Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said of the army of young men working under U.S. contracts. "We need to shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and power brokers who act contrary to our interests and contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the Afghan people for their government," he added. The Defense Department doesn't necessarily disagree but warns that firing the estimated 26,000 private security personnel operating in Afghanistan in the near future isn't practical. This summer, U.S. forces in Afghanistan pledged to increase their oversight of security contractors and set up two task forces to look into allegations of misconduct and to track the money spent, particularly among lower-level subcontractors. The Defense Contract Management Agency has increased the number of auditors and support staff in the region by some 300 percent since 2007. And in September, Gen. David Petraeus, the top war commander in Afghanistan, directed his staff to consider the impact that contract spending has on military operations. But military officials and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee warn that ending the practice of hiring local guards could worsen the security situation in Afghanistan. They say pr
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