Report blasts Pentagon's use of private security

October 7, 2010 4:28:25 PM PDT
The Senate Armed Services Committee late Thursday issued a scathing report against the Pentagon's hiring of private security guards in Afghanistan. The ABC 7 I-Team first looked into the use of contract Afghan guards last spring when one of them shot and killed a U.S. Marine from northwest Indiana.

The 105-page report has blotted out names of American soldiers and Afghan contractors, but it is clear that Senate committee members were referring to Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Birchfield of Westville, Indiana, in one of the most hard-hitting sections of the investigation.

The report found Pentagon contracts and U.S. tax dollars going to Afghan warlords who murder, kidnap and bribe, and in some cases even attack those wearing U.S. uniforms.

Last February 19 -- on what was supposed to be a routine patrol for his Marine unit in the Farah province of southern Afghanistan -- Lance Corporal Josh Birchfield was struck by gunfire from a security checkpoint. Birchfield was shot in the head and killed.

As the I-Team reported last March, the shooter was an Afghan security guard, provided by an Afghan contractor that had been hired and paid by the Pentagon. According to the Senate panel report Thursday, that incident "was not the first time they had taken fire from private security personnel."

One Marine told military investigators that "personally while on patrol ... we have been shot at by contractors and after we yelled 'Marines' the firing continued from the contractors."

The I-Team also reported last spring that the U.S.-hired Afghan guard who killed Josh Birchfield had been using opium. The Senate report goes even further than Birchfield's case, citing soldiers who "knew Afghan contract security guards to be high on opium while on the job."

In the Birchfield case, seven Afghan guards were questioned. One said "the last time he fired a rifle was in the late 1980's when the Russians occupied Afghanistan."

Another said he "had never shot or had training in shooting the rifle he carried."

Finally, "the committee's inquiry revealed widespread deficiencies in the performance of security contractions...training provided and gaps in government oversight."

The report comes eight months after Lance Corporal Birchfield was returned home and buried in Indiana, an ending that the report suggests didn't have to be.

Without private Afghan guards the war in Afghanistan would be difficult to manage for American military planners.

Currently, the Pentagon contracts for 26,000 private guards, and thousands more work for the U.S. military around the world.

The Senate committee looked at just 125 Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan and found failure after failure in who was being hired and trained.

Read the Senate Armed Services Committee report: http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2010/SASC.PSCReport.100710.pdf


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