U.S. Embassy Guards in Afghanistan: Acccused of ‘Lewd and Deviant Behavior’

September 1, 2009

(ChattahBox)—In yet another case of misconduct and oversight problems with private security contractors used in a war zone, the Washington Post is reporting that contractors guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul stand accused of severe misconduct, including “lewd and deviant behavior” in a “Lord of the Flies environment.”

According to an investigative report released by a government watchdog group, the misconduct presents a grave threat to the security of embassy personnel and a “pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale.”

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) began its investigation after receiving complaints about the misconduct from nearly a dozen embassy guards. The group of 450 guards is housed at Camp Sullivan, a few miles from the U.S. embassy compound. The group sent its final report to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and published it on its Web site.

POGO noted that the U.S. embassy is frequently a target of terrorist attacks by the Taliban and that “effective security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the nearly one thousand U.S. diplomats, staff, and Afghan nationals who work there is paramount.”

The report blasted the private security firm ArmorGroup, North America (AGNA), which is now owned by Wackenhut Services, Inc., for its shoddy performance, and chastised the Department of State for its utter failure in conducting proper oversight of the private contractors.

The performance of the private embassy guards degraded to such an extent that “an investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight” was initiated to review the AGNA contract, finding severe deficiencies that endangered the security of the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Despite the Subcommittee’s findings, the Department of State renewed the contract with AGNA in July of this year.

After “extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails,” POGO uncovered alarming instances of humiliation and hazing of subordinates and lewd and deviant parties, at a time when the situation in Kabul is serious and deteriorating.

“One email from a current guard describes scenes in which guards and supervisors are “peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drnken [sic] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity….” Photograph after photograph shows guards—including supervisors—at parties in various stages of nudity, sometimes fondling each other.”

The embassy guards also frequently victimized and abused Afghan nationals, brought in prostitutes to their parties and went on “cowboy missions taking weapons and night vision goggles, dressed in Afghan garb, which is a violation of contract rules.

POGO calls the severe misconduct a “complete breakdown of discipline and the chain of command among guards and their leadership, itself a significant security issue.”

The report recommends that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates immediately assign U.S. military personnel to supervise the guards and remove the management of the current force. POGO also questions the very existence of private security contractors protecting an embassy in a war zone, recommending that their use be reconsidered.

“The State Department should consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out.”

In light of the problems in Iraq with the private contracting firm Blackwater and now with AGNA, that’s advice that is long overdue.


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