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Senate Report: Contractors Funded Afghan Warlords

By Sharon Weinberger

AOL News

(Oct. 7) — The sordid tale of thugs, violent crime and greed could have been lifted from a Quentin Tarantino film. In fact, that’s likely what the Western security firms operating in Afghanistan had in mind when they dubbed local warlords on their payroll “Mr. White” and “Mr. Pink” — names ripped straight from the film “Reservoir Dogs.”

The tangled web of warlords, contractors and crime eventually involved a raid that left civilians dead, and even prompted a call from then-President George W. Bush to the Afghan president to apologize for civilian deaths, according to a Senate investigation released today.

And it was all paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) speaks during a news conference October 7, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong, Getty Images
“Our reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan has too often empowered local warlords and power brokers who operate outside of the Afghan government’s control and act against coalition interests,” Sen. Carl Levin said during a news conference Thursday.

The saga of Mr. Pink and Mr. White — Afghan warlords — began in 2007, when ArmorGroup North America took over a contract to provide security at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan, the report said. The company, allegedly at the suggestion of U.S. military personnel, turned to local warlords to provide security guards.

The investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee found that both warlords were tied “to murder, kidnapping, bribery and anti-Coalition activities,” according to the final report. While the committee investigated more than 100 contracts, a good portion of the report focuses on the story of the warlords hired by ArmorGroup.

Problems began when rivalries between the two warlords escalated into firefights, and eventually a shootout in a local bazaar, where Mr. Pink, who had allied himself with the Taliban, shot and killed Mr. White, the report said. After Mr. White was killed, the company turned to his brother, quickly dubbed Mr. White II, to provide security guards for the contract.

It quickly became clear, however, that Mr. White II was also working with the anti-U.S. forces. Concerns about the warlord’s Taliban connections were raised by the U.S. military, as well as from within ArmorGroup, the report said. Despite those concerns, Mr. White II quickly expanded his security work, and even received money from a different part of ArmorGroup working on a United Nations contract for mine clearance, the Senate probe found.

Mr. White II was killed during a U.S. military raid aimed at a Taliban leader that left a number of civilians dead. The civilian casualties prompted a personal call from Bush to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Even after Mr. White II was killed, another part of ArmorGroup, called ArmorGroup Mine Action, agreed to hire Mr. White II’s brother — Mr. White III. The hiring of Mr. White III was “great news,” an ArmorGroup Mine Action manager remarked, according to the probe. The manager supposedly added, “Strange how business goes.”

A spokesman for the Britain-based G4S, which owns ArmorGroup, declined to comment on the report, but addressed the events described. “What we can say is that ArmorGroup engaged workers from two local villages as stated by the Senate Report — but did so only upon the recommendation and encouragement of U.S. Special Forces,” the spokesman said in a statement provided to AOL News.

The Senate investigation began as a broad look at the use and oversight of private security contractors in Afghanistan. The inquiry, started in 2009, reviewed more than 125 security contracts and found problems with a number of them.

“Our reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan has too often empowered local warlords and power brokers who operate outside of the Afghan government’s control and act against coalition interests,” Sen. Carl Levin, the committee’s chairman, told reporters today at a briefing.

Investigators also laid blame at the feet of the U.S. military, which they said not only tolerated the contractors’ conduct, but in the case of the Mr. Pink and Mr. White saga, often encouraged the companies to work with the local warlords. In other cases, investigators found so little paperwork that it was hard to know whether the contract was successful.

One aide described opening a file only to find that the only piece of documentation was a copy of the contract. “The absence of information,” another aide said, “is significant.”

Levin, D-Mich., argued for better vetting and oversight, but stopped short of offering any specific legislative measures that might be pursued.

“We need to shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pocket of warlords and pawnbrokers who act contrary to our interest and contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the afghan people for their government,” he said.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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