Monday, December 04, 2006

Like Iraq, Like Afghanistan: When Will the Bleeding Stop?

Also at Kos.

We've known for years that the Iraqi police we've been training can't be trusted. The force is infiltrated by militia members who have formed death squads, and in some instances, Iraqi police have aided in attacks on U.S. troops.

Now James Glanz and David Rhode of the New York Times reveal a similar situation in Afghanistan:
Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

In its most significant finding, the report said that no effective field training program had been established in Afghanistan, at least in part because of a slow, ineffectual start and understaffing.

A couple of things here: 1) the Taliban didn't fall very far or very hard, because they've made a major comeback, and 2) I bet we can all guess who all those missing policemen and equipment are with now. Will the Bush administration establish a bipartisan blue ribbon committee to come up with the same conclusion the rest of us have?

"Experts" say that the U.S. has made the same mistakes training the Afghan police forces that it made training Iraqi police. That's not surprising, considering that the U.S. hired the same contracting company to train police in both countries. DynCorp, based in Virginia, has received $1.6 billion for its training and security work in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last three fiscal years.

Founded in 1946 by World War II veterans looking to cash in on their military contacts, DynCorp has a colorful history as one of the world's premier mercenary organizations. Today, according to a report by CorpWatch:
[A]rmed DynCorp employees make up the core of the police force in Bosnia. DynCorp troops protect Afghan president Hamid Karzai, while DynCorp planes and pilots fly the defoliation missions over the coca crops in Colombia. Back home in the United States Dyncorp is in charge of the border posts between the US and Mexico, many of the Pentagon's weapons-testing ranges and the entire Air Force One fleet of presidential planes and helicopters. The company also reviews security clearance applications of military and civilian personnel for the Navy.

Like most of our fine defense contracting outfits, DynCorp is a long time player in the political back-scratching game. The Center for Public Integrity has statistics on DynCorp's awarded defense contracts and political contributions from 1998 to 2003. Dyncorp received over $4.1 trillion in defense contracts during that period, a nice return for just over $315,000 in campaign contributions, 71 percent of which (shock, awe) went to Republican candidates and organizations.

Stand Up, Stand Down, Sit Down, Fall Down

DynCorp is hardly alone in America's war profiteering industry, but they are notably responsible among defense contractors for the failure of "stand up, stand down," which young Mister Bush declared to be the keystone of our Iraq strategy back in June of 2005.

Given that "standing up" was such a critical factor in our strategy, and that so much of the responsibility for executing that strategy was placed on DynCorp, you might think someone in the U.S. government would have kept an eye on what they were doing, but no.

From the NYT piece by Glanz and Rhode:
The [Pentagon/State Department] report does not suggest that DynCorp held any responsibility for the program’s failures, but former Afghan officials and several American policing experts who have examined DynCorp’s training on the ground say that the company is partly to blame for long delays and that the use of private contractors for training should be reviewed. Afghan officials have complained about the high cost of the advisers and have said that some have too little experience…

But there was plenty of covering from State Department officials. Howard J. Krongard, inspector general at the State Department…
…acknowledged the seriousness of the report’s criticisms. But he said in a statement in answer to questions about the report that in the face of obstacles like largely illiterate recruits, low pay and corruption, the program was “generally well conceived and well executed.”

What? What? The program to train Afghan police is an abysmal failure, but it was “generally well conceived and well executed?” How much longer are we to believe that Bush appointed inspectors general and doing any actual inspecting?
The report says that management of the DynCorp contract by United States government officials in Afghanistan has fallen into a state of disarray; conflicting military and civilian bureaucracies could not even find a copy of the contract to clarify for auditors exactly what it called for.

They can't find a copy of the contract? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What the…

Or why should we expect that inspectors general have any authority whatsoever to actually inspect any government spending? Lurita Alexis Doan, the new Bush appointee to head the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) who is (more shock and awe) a former government contractor, wants to cut $5 million from the GSA inspector general's budget. The GSA oversees more than $56 billion in annual contract awards to Defense and Homeland Security Department contractors.

And I hope you be too shocked or awed to know that GSA oversees defense contracts awarded out to DynCorp.

Doesn't that just make you want to put your hand over your heart and salute the flag?

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what your country is doing to you, and how far up it's doing it, and how many gauze pads will it take to stop the bleeding once it's done doing it, assuming you can ever make it stop doing it to you.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Excuse a naive europen question: Why dont you just prosecute these people who obviously are not delivering according to contract?

    As earlier posted, the Bremer-period of the Iraqi invasion is one of the most ridicilously corrupt periods in US history. 9 bn in cash just given away. WTF? Why isnt he in jail?

  2. Anonymous6:00 PM

    What is the hidden agenda? Most of us with even the most rudimentary research tools have known this stuff for years. What happened to military intelligence and accountability beyond the 'usual' level of profiteering associated with war? It's hard to accept that this level of incompetence and criminality can exist unabated at the real cost in lives of serving personnel. If this 'stuff happens' isn't grounds for war crimes, then we are in real serious trouble.

  3. Anonymous7:50 PM

    DynCorp Intl's slogan?

    “We are innovation in action.”

    Uh huh.

    I'm with you ... what?what?what? WTF?!?

  4. DynCorp employees can be real assholes, I've heard.

  5. Squeeky Wheel,

    The short answer to your question is that I endorse Murtha's plan to redeploy to the periphery, (the periphery including the relatively peaceful parts of Iraq.)

  6. Didn't you write that DynCorp has been around since 1946? Umm, weren't Democrats in control for 40 of those years in Congress? Weren't there Democrat administrations for 30 of those years that DynCorp has been around?

    I'd wager that DynCorp has been getting contracts for a long time -- and both parties have granted those contracts.

    I'd also bet, if we did more research, that the donation numbers fluctuate with incumbency.

  7. Well, Jim, I'd grant that everything you say is probably true.

    But this particular company is getting away with murder on these particular wars, and this administration, which can't manage either of its wars, is letting them get away with it.

    This kind of stuff has been floating around for a long time, but its the Bush administration, its policies, and its penchant for putting pliant incompetent cronies in key positions that have brought things to a head.

  8. Anonymous4:52 AM

    J. Hoeft: I agree with you, and would like to point out that the whole american system of politics is built around the principle of distribution of privileges. Pork barrel politics I think you call it, yes?

    What makes the Bush2 era unique in may aspects, not just corruption, is that they havent been bothering covering anything up. Its the same people from Iran/Contra in charge for a second round of pirate-style graft, and these guys just dont care. John Negroponte, your currewnt head of everything that has to do with security, used to run death squads in El Salvador. Otto reich was his right hand man. These guys are not afraid of prosecution, I do not think the thought has even passed through their heads.

    For the democrats reading, I think going after the corruption of the war will be a good start for building up to a more general confrontation about torture/gulags/wiretapping & such like. This would tie in with a demand for terrorism to be treated like a crime, not as an act of war, and could lead to some constructive momentum being shaped.

  9. Anonymous4:58 AM

    Small correction. It was Honduras Negroponte had as a base of operation, not El Salvador. For details see