Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Gunmen of Kabul: Afghanistan Cracks Down on U.S. Mercenaries


In September, on a tree-lined street in the most expensive neighborhood in Kabul, dozens of men rolled out of armored vehicles in front of a little-known U.S. security company. Backed up by Blackwater guards, Afghan authorities and Americans from the FBI and the U.S. State Department quickly headed for the offices of United States Protection and Investigations (USPI). Once inside, they arrested four of the Texas-based company's management team and confiscated 15 computers. The two Americans arrested were later released, while the Afghan managers remain in custody.

The September raid was one of the first attempts by President Karzai's government to crack down on private security contractors in Afghanistan. Afghan police say they plan to shut down about 14 contractors, and so far, have closed 10 Afghan and foreign firms.

What made the USPI raid unusual was the U.S. government's role. The State Department and FBI spearheaded the operation and accused the company of defrauding the United States, according to USPI guards in Kabul and Afghan officials who did not want to be named because the investigation is classified.

Ironically, the United States used private security guards from Blackwater -- the same company under scrutiny for the September death of 17 Iraqi civilians -- to carry out the USPI raid. It was Blackwater's actions and virtual impunity that had spurred the Afghan and Iraqi governments to rein in Western security contractors in the first place.

That impunity is of particular concern to Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of criminal investigations with the Kabul police. A crusader against private security companies, he charges that many contractors are corrupt and are operating without an Afghan government license. Some, he said, are using their guns and power to commit murder and other crimes including drug dealing and bank robbery, and to extort money on a daily basis, he said........

1 comment:

Lynn Green said...

When did my country becomes the Red Coats?