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The Associated Press, December 19, 2010

Contractors Behaving Badly A US Headache

Crimes Committed Cast Shadow Over American Presence

WASHINGTON - At two in the morning on Sept. 9, 2005, five DynCorp International security guards assigned to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's protective detail returned to their compound drunk, with a prostitute in tow. Less than a week later, three of these same guards got drunk again, this time in the VIP lounge of the Kabul airport while awaiting a flight to Thailand.

Karzai with his guards
Hamid Karzai with guards. (Photo: Newsvine)

"They had been intoxicated, loud and obnoxious," according to an internal company report of the incident, which noted that Afghanistan's deputy director for elections and a foreign diplomat were also in the lounge. "Complaints were made regarding the situation." DynCorp fired the three guards.

Such episodes represent the headaches that U.S. contractors can cause in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They are indispensable to the State Department's mission overseas, handling security, transportation, construction, food service and more. But when hired hands behave badly -- or break the law -- they cast a cloud over the American presence.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act describe previously undisclosed offenses committed by more than 200 contract employees in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries between 2004 and 2008. They were working under a broad State Department security services contract shared by DynCorp of Falls Church, Va.; Triple Canopy of Reston, Va.; and the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide - Xe Services of Moyock, N.C.

Most of the infractions, which include excessive drinking, drug use, sexual misconduct and mishandling weapons, were violations of corporate and U.S. policies that probably went unnoticed by ordinary Afghans and Iraqis. But other offenses played out in public, undermining U.S. efforts in both countries and raising questions about how carefully job candidates are screened.

Despite complaints from foreign capitals about reckless behavior and heavy-handed tactics, U.S. contractors are more important than ever. In Iraq, the departure of U.S. combat forces has left a security and logistics support vacuum to be filled by the private sector.

Category: US-NATO, Corruption - Views: 8689