By Bryant Jordan Defense Tech Chief Investigative Correspondent
Private security companies working under Defense Department contracts in Afghanistan are siphoning off some of the best and brightest from that country's security and police forces, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says.
That’s the finding of a committee investigation into private security contractors in Afghanistan. The reason the Afghans are taking the contract jobs is simple -- money.
"Many of them are recruited by higher-paying private security firms," Levin said in a statement released during Gen. David Petraeus' testimony to the committee. Levin said he is concerned that the U.S.'s own contracting practices may be harming the war effort by luring away from the Afghan forces that are expected to take over the fight many of its best people.
He also noted that private security contractors often draw from militia forces, thereby "empowering local powerbrokers and warlords who operate outside the government's control." Levin said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military leader in Afghanistan, has acknowledged there are problems with the contracting practices and that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force would assess what needs to be done to reform them.
"I hope that review will lay out a path to phase out the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan and integrate those personnel into the Afghan National Security Forces," Levin said.
Michele P. Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon, also acknowledged there have been "unintended consequences" to all the private contracting in Afghanistan. "The large sums of money spent by the U.S. and other Coalition partners to support operational requirements ... have concentrated wealth among a relatively small number of Afghans who control those companies able to execute the required support operations," she said.
Some of these rising power brokers have figured into the corruption that has been widespread in Afghanistan.
Numerous reports out of Afghanistan have linked members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's family to corruption, but none of the testimony submitted to the committee Tuesday addressed the allegations and no senator asked about them. "When we have evidence of corruption," she said, "we will work with the Afghan government to prosecute those who have violated the law."