It has been a long time since we have seen a crazy contractor story from Afghanistan. This story, about reckless security contractors, popped up in the news yesterday, saying “...Private Afghan security guards protecting NATO supply convoys in southern Kandahar province regularly fire wildly into villages they pass, hindering coalition efforts to build local support ahead of this summer’s planned offensive in the area, U.S. and Afghan officials say.”
Well now, I have gone on record as saying security contractors don’t do those sorts of things only to find that maybe they do. Look at this quote from the linked article, “Especially as they go through the populated areas, they tend to squeeze the trigger first and ask questions later,” said Capt. Matt Quiggle, a member of the U.S. Army‘s 5th Stryker brigade tasked with patrolling Highway One, which connects Afghanistan’s major cities.” The 5th Stryker Brigade has had some problems with “escalation of force” issues recently so I thought this was an attempt at a little deflection. I gave The Bot a bell to see what he had heard; The Bot is spending this fighting season in the south and is pretty clued in. It turns out he has heard the same thing; this story turns out to be true.
The military personnel quoted in the linked article correctly point out that the shooting of innocent civilians makes their job harder. That cuts both ways; most of us working outside the wire have learned to deal with blowback when ISAF inflicts collateral damage during kinetic operations or in escalation of force shootings. I am with the military guys on the consequences of allowing people to shoot indiscriminately at unarmed civilians. The key word in that last sentence is “allowing.” These contractors are protecting NATO supply convoys. NATO is the customer who wrote the contract and hired the guards. They fund these people and can instantly de-fund them, eliminating the whole problem. The customer is responsible for what these guards are doing and they are obligated to put a stop to this behavior.
The Bot told me the company responsible for this conduct is an old one which I thought had long ago gone out of business. The founders are awaiting trial in the United States and their offices in Kabul were once raided by the FBI who carted off their records and computers. It appears this company is now an Afghan owned and operated business. How can a company like that get a NATO supply escort contract? I’m not too sure, but will say that the pressure on contracting officers to accept the lowest bidder, while favoring Afghan companies ahead of international companies when at all possible, is a big part of the problem. The bigger problem is the contracting process. The contracting officers supporting the military come from their own command and have no relationship with their “customers” (the supported military units) other than that established after they arrive in country. They have no ability to monitor performance, are overworked, under-staffed and afraid for their very lives least they do something wrong, or be accused of improper conduct. There are many stories of contracting officers committing suicide after it was discovered they took a bribe. Infantry officers can deploy here and become legends doing feats of combat daring-do. The best thing that can happen to a contracting officer is that he leaves here with everything he had before he came. Being a contracting officer is a crap job and crap jobs in the military are supposed to be assigned to competent junior officers as a collateral duty to teach them humility and grace under pressure. The way the American military does contracting is perfect for building large bases and expensive airplanes in the United States but it is not working here…. not even close.
Post-World War II discussions with German officers revealed that, so far as their WWII predecessors were concerned, one of the major strengths of the American military was the ability to adapt to complex, dynamic combat situations by making bold and necessary changes. We are trying to make some bold course corrections here but the fundamental weakness of clear, hold and build strategy lies in the fact that the military commander responsible for the clearing and holding phases of the combat operation in a given district lacks the assets essential to accomplishment of the fundamental operational objective, the build phase.
I don’t believe the military wants this responsibility and I don’t blame them. The problem is the military and the governmental agencies tasked with post-conflict development in Afghanistan stand on the brink of failure. Something has got to change and the only agency who has demonstrated the ability to handle post-conflict development is the Department of Defense. Every other US government (USG) agency assigned to help in this task is failing. The military needs to do here what it did in Iraq, which is take over the damn thing and get us back on track. However it is clear that the Pentagon has not realized this, and is not adopting to this fact.
The recently concluded 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), is the legislatively mandated review by the Department of Defense of the country’s longer-term defense requirements. The QDR is supposed to couple strategy to military capabilities for not only current conflicts but to also develop force structure tailored to future threats. The problem is that to the Pentagon, future threats always look like the threats of the past because the QDR’s always recommend that the force structure be cut evenly across the board. The Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps end up with about the same percentage of the defense dollar that they had when QDR’s started some 20 odd years ago. So we end up with a force structure designed to fight a peer level threat. Thus, the force designed to fight the Cold War has become the template for American military force structure, regardless of the fact that a peer level threat is the least likely problem we will face over the next several decades.
General McChrystal has shut all the fast food joints down at the Kandahar Airfield in preparation for the coming offensive, because he needs the room to bring in more forces. There are currently over 20,000 military and contractor personnel there supporting units in the field, which number around maybe 2000 troops on a busy day. I guess that number is to increase significantly, but bringing in more fobbits at this stage of the game is pointless. Somebody needs to stop worrying about how much beer the Germans drink, how many fast food concessions are on the super big box FOB’s, who is walking around the FOB’s without wearing eye protection and which soldiers are out on operations without wearing all their Land Warrior experimental bullshit, and start focusing on the Taliban, the Afghan people, and how to separate one from the other. The future of war for the rest of our lifetimes will feature very little peer to peer wars, pitting one state against another, and a lot of what we see in Afghanistan, which is battle in the daily context of everything else. The United States needs to develop the force structure to function in this kind of an environment and the proven solution would be to grow the Marine Corps (who has the mission of expeditionary warfare) and couple to them a contractor-based organization which would be just like the old East India Company, but different. Different in the sense that it works directly for the Marine Corps as armed reconstruction implementers and project managers. The natural choice for the management side would be guys like me, retired Marines who are well known to the commanders and have to answer to those commanders for everything they do and fail to do, just like they did on active duty. Project management of that nature coupled with implementers who work just like Team Canada is working now would make lines of authority and accountability clean, simple and efficient.
There is a group of rogue contractors working the border from Spin Boldak to Kandahar who are apparently shooting small arms indiscriminately. They are an all Afghan crew, off duty ANP soldiers are working with them, and they are on an ISAF contract. It is up to ISAF to put a stop to this and to do so immediately. But they can’t because nobody seems to know who these clowns work for and how to apply the pain of liquidated damages or a CURE notice while finding one of the 33 registered security companies that have the ability to deploy armed internationals who can run the job correctly. It is not that hard to find a model which can allow us to start gaining ground in Afghanistan, but it will require enormous amounts of intra-agency warfare to come up with a radical template tailored to address what to do when you have war occurring in the midst of everyday life inside an alien culture and far away from home. This is a very complex problem with many variables which we do not know or understand. Simplicity is the weapon to use in the face of uncertainty, which is why we have simple military principals, which should never be ignored or violated. Unity of command is one of those principals and once we understand this and use it to our advantage, we will make faster progress. The commander who is responsible for the Hold and Clear has to have the authority and ability to do the Build too – there is no other way.
20 Replies to “Crazy Contractors”
This recent post of yours may supply many of those clues one needs to discover if victory is truly desired. One only needs to ascertain the “structure” of your comments for an understanding that “diversity” is your/our problem…well, it’s our problem as Americans if we want to win this war, or should I defer to others, much more “professional” to explain to me what I need to learn and know about this problem.
Here’s a simple question: Why would a native Afghan citizen, hired to provide and “promote” security for others, behave in such ways that would bring more evil in various forms to those who have come to help? How does such an asshole ever get to that level of input? And who are the idiots who hire these people? Why are they hired in the first place?
Is diversity operating in the shadows? You should look over at our State Department.
Oh, and for those who thought my previous rants on lawyers/sophists who are employed in our national government don’t have much to say on “policies” that these wars are operating…try this:
What is the ratio of lawyers to military
veterans working at a national level in
our government, even elected persons?
You want an arm within our military to control this war and those elements of support, etc. A linear command and control system outside of the “elected political” system that seems to have the real and “tactical” control which just might be causing these problems: What makes you think that will happen…for real and not just a veneer?
When we have a so called president, a commander in chief who can’t even create a resistant policy toward Iran, and misses (or throws away) a chance to offer support to those citizens who were ready to lay down their lives in revolution some months ago, but can immediately demand the people of Israel (both personally and through his snake Mitchell) to stop improving their society, you expect to have a change with some clowns who roam around Afghanistan as contracted guards to stop firing their weapons without true and real causes?
Have you forgotten how long it took this elected leader of ours to ponder a new strategy in Afghanistan and how pansy-like his efforts?
Oil and opium from these people who kill us: Diversity is much more important. I can’t wait for the “racial” component to be activated over there.
Make another imitation of a Lady Gaga video! How will our government inform those on the front lines it’s time to pack up and come home?
Oh, I forgot, this elected leader, our lawyer/warrior, has already set the time table for his desires…
Time to ride off into the sunset as the natives fire their weapons whenever they want, at whatever they wish, and for any reason they choose! They love Allah not we Americans!
McChrystal doesn’t have the authority to shut down all the fast food joints…only the US owned franchises…which if they were smart would find a 51% Afghan silent partner and start selling Stanley Burgers.
This is typical. The media spend their time writing about Burger King because they can see it and ignore the failure in Marjah and Nad Ali.
Great read. I see bouhammeer’s afghan blog has a posting on these lines ” Afghans affirmative action”? While I don’t fault the afghans for wanting to work. It’s just some do have short coming on doing the job at hand (convoy escort).Whoever owns the company that has the contract pays out bribes and hire friend,and families members to work the contract.
RJ seems to subscribe to the BIG MAN theory of world history. That ONE MAN can control everything. Maybe RJ should also know that the Iranian opposition is four square in support of their country’s nuclear program and that the last thing that they would want is support from the USA, whom most Iranians believe is near to invading their country. The only Afghanis who like us are the ones making money. When it costs us 1 million dollars a year to keep a soldier there and we control less area than 8 years ago someone better start thinking about a new direction. We are supporting a President in Kabul who has little or no public support and can’t leave his city except by helo.
John Ryan: If you have the time and interest, I would appreciate you to expound on your “big man” theory and your knowledge of Iranian society relative to those protests some months previous. Then, tie those two efforts into your observations of Afghan politics and society.
And finally, what would you do if given the authority and power to effect a conclusion, if possible, for Afghanistan and those who would do Americans and others great harm via terrorism?
Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.
basic understandings i have that might be wrong.
!) contractors are there because we want others to die for us and free their own damn country. a combination of not wanting a huge standing army so clinton turned everyone in to er or ng. then we want to use the old standing army of the country we occupy so we dont have saigon full of draft dodgers on mopeds while our legs are getting shot to s in some paddy etc.
2) we arent allowed to ‘take over’ countries anymore. we liberate them and then turn them over to the bureaucrats in dc and turtle bay and their brainiac asses set it all up so that we have to re liberate in ten twenty years etc and that’s ‘fairness’ or something. so all the unity of command ideas and tactics all fall tothe wayside because mommy dont care what daddy says. then the chinese or eu clowns can come in and buy off all the allawis or karzais and sell us the oil we just liberated?
we’re getting so screwed.
Washington was a big man. he showed up, got the job dont and went back to Virgina. I dont care how many tabs GEN McC has, he is getting his lunch eaten because he wont take a stand here in WDC and call O out on his bs. theyre all a bunch of ticket punching losers it seems, doesnt it? If we cant take over these sholes but the enemy can, how are we going to win? If we dont have the stones to tell Karzai or any other losers to sit down and shut up till we call you and then send in a Patton to hang the enemy from telephone poles, how can we expect to not be laughed at by a bunch of stoneage muslims? the same ones who dont hesitate to blast away at strangers wives and children?
We’re falling into that big dumb animal mode again like in the Nam. we need to pull back and get all these remfs out of there. this is not good.
Luckent: Ya know, i kinda like the way you’re thinking! When a $450,000 plus truck carries about 19 guys down a road in order to protect them, after we have been in this country for more than 8 years…
Who’s is controlling who? Can you spot the “loser” in this picture?
The future of war for the rest of our lifetimes will feature very little peer to peer wars, pitting one state against another, and a lot of what we see in Afghanistan, which is battle in the daily context of everything else. The United States needs to develop the force structure to function in this kind of an environment and the proven solution would be to grow the Marine Corps (who has the mission of expeditionary warfare) and couple to them a contractor-based organization which would be just like the old East India Company, but different. Different in the sense that it works directly for the Marine Corps as armed reconstruction implementers and project managers. The natural choice for the management side would be guys like me, retired Marines who are well known to the commanders and have to answer to those commanders for everything they do and fail to do, just like they did on active duty. Project management of that nature coupled with implementers who work just like Team Canada is working now would make lines of authority and accountability clean, simple and efficient.
Interesting concept Tim. Have you had any response from the Marines about this? Because I think your right. The build portion of today’s COIN strategy is made easier when it has a civilian face to it. Especially a local civilian face, coupled with a savy expat civilian face managing and/or monitoring the whole thing in the background. That expat contractor must be able to speak the Marine language, be able to protect self and others, and know the terrain of the local population. They must also be able to cruise around low profile and be very capable in austere environments.
I put up a post the other day about USAID’s IDEA-NEW program, and Greenham’s quote is what I was interested in. It matches well with what you are saying.
My team can go places and do things soldiers can’t, he went on. They operate low profile and can move freely because the communities invite them in and support them. They work to rebuild irrigation systems, plant fruit and forest trees, build walls around girls schools, drinking water schemes, microhydro power for villages and more, he continued. Of his 370 in-country staff, only two are expatriates – the rest are Afghans.-Greenham
The future of war for the rest of our lifetimes will feature very little peer to peer wars, pitting one state against another, and a lot of what we see in Afghanistan, which is battle in the daily context of everything else.
That’s the part I had a question about, everything else I agree with or at least understand from my own limited perspective.
Rounding off the rest of our lifetimes at around forty years or so, is it really safe to assume that one or more rogue nations or less then rational national leaders won’t go off the deep end, ala Saddam invading Kuwait, within the next four decades?
Is it safe to assume that a future US President the polar opposite of the current US President would not send two Stryker Brigades on a round trip tour of North Waziristan with the headline gig in Miram Shah, order the Marines to go door-to-door through Quetta for a week or so, the Navy to blockade Karachi, or all of the above, if faced with another, this time successful Times Square? (Is it even safe to assume that this President won’t lose his temper at some point?)
There are still tens of thousands of operational tanks out there, many of them in the hands of very bad actors.
Five active and full strength Marine divisions should be just about right, but so is forcing the Navy to recognize its legal responsibility towards off-shore fire support. I’m sure the current SecDef will have none of that though
grow the Marine Corps (who has the mission of expeditionary warfare) and couple to them a contractor-based organization which would be just like the old East India Company, but different. Different in the sense that it works directly for the Marine Corps as armed reconstruction implementers and project managers. The natural choice for the management side would be guys like me, retired Marines who are well known to the commanders and have to answer to those commanders for everything they do and fail to do, just like they did on active duty.
Different also in the sense that the New Afghanistan Company would have no colonial possessions from which to extract wealth. Providing profit to stockholders was the primary mission of the Old East India Company. Presumably the New Afghanistan Company would be in business to make money too, but they could only get what their sole customer, a new United States Marine Corps that is now too polically correct to accept recruits with Confederate Flag tattoos, is willing to beg an anti-contractor Congress to pay for, with funny money because the country is broke.
“Marines Hiring Mercenaries, Paying Big Bucks To Double-Dipping Retirees” is what the Lame Stream Media will call it.
Expeditionary warfare 600 miles from the sea would not be considered a suitable mission for Marines if the Army had the gumption to defend their own rice bowl as the primary fighters of land wars in Asia.
Good thinking! We do have the “profit” item existing within Afghanistan: It’s called “opium” to be exact.
Try this notion: Colonize the country with those Americans who “feel the Afghan’s pain” so to speak.
Next: Offer to every Mexican citizen the choice to become part of the United States via joining the two countries into one great United States of America via voting from both sides, American and Mexican.
Third: Call out those leaders of Islam…the Muslims, to choose what is right and what is wrong with those who use this religion to advance what we in America consider “terrorism” and all the tributaries that belong within it/
Fourth: Enact a new military all inclusive “draft” within the United States.
Fifth: Elect leaders on a national level who sense the beauty that is America, from all angles!
Sixth: Pray…a lot!
Till then, wait for the next video via the soldiers in Afghanistan showing up on Youtube.com. Go short on American bonds!
I continue to enjoy your rantings (although increasingly more organized and direct) Tim, and turn anyone who is curious about Afghanistan onto your site. Kudos for the article on Wired’s Danger Room Blog, looks like your efforts in journalism are gaining some recognition. I miss the Taj!
Yes congrats on the wright up. Well done dude. 🙂
Regards those rogue “security” contractors shooting indiscriminately around… why not TAKE THEM OUTTA there immediately, by any and all force(s) necessary to do so?
Will they be missed, or “security” compromised by them not being there and ” … shooting indiscriminately..”?
Afghanistan: Government Has Barred Compass ISS And Watan Risk Management
Render said: “Is it safe to assume that a future US President the polar opposite of the current US President would not send two Stryker Brigades on a round trip tour of North Waziristan with the headline gig in Miram Shah, order the Marines to go door-to-door through Quetta for a week or so, the Navy to blockade Karachi, or all of the above, if faced with another, this time successful Times Square?”
Then said hypothetical president might get round to bombing Riyadh and Jeddah as well.
Pentagon Seeks Private Contractor to Move Weapons Through Pakistan/Afghanistan | http://bit.ly/99qU0y
PAKISTAN THIRD PARTY LOGISTICS http://bit.ly/9ww6Zq
Like Shrek movies, very good animation film.
“The United States needs to develop the force structure to function in this kind of an environment and the proven solution would be to grow the Marine Corps (who has the mission of expeditionary warfare) and couple to them a contractor-based organization which would be just like the old East India Company, but different. Different in the sense that it works directly for the Marine Corps as armed reconstruction implementers and project managers.”
AMEN, Brother. The contracting process is severely broken. S/F, Butterman
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