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Senator Levin on Private Military Contractors

September 15, 2010

Last month Michigan Senator Carl Levin released a statement about the use of “private security contractors in Afghanistan.” His statement says:

“The reliance on private security contractors in Afghanistan too often empowers local warlords and powerbrokers who operate outside the Afghan government’s control. There is even evidence that some security contractors work against coalition forces, creating the very threat that they are hired to combat. Not only do these contractors threaten the security of our troops, but they put the success of our mission at risk – an assessment that Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, and Major General Nick Carter, the Commander of Regional Command South, both shared with me during my recent trip to Afghanistan.”

Levin rightfully points out how US funding is ending up in the hands of warlords, but he leaves out the details that are important. According to an article by Pratap Chatterjee in June, “many believe that the highway warlords who provide security in turn make protection payments to insurgents to coordinate safe passage. 
Memos show that occasionally the contractors even worked with the insurgents to shake down the U.S. military for more money.

Chatterjee is referring to a major report put out by the US Congress in June entitled, “WARLORD, INC. Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan.” The lengthy report details the extortion by warlords in the supply chain routes used by the US military and their inability to provide oversight of these private contractors that the US has contracts with.

Senator Levin also said in his statement that he agrees with Afghan President Karzai’s call for an end to the funding of such private contractors, but the Michigan Senator fails to mention that Karzai is opposed to all contractors, not just the ones involved in the military supply routes.

The Afghan President wants an end to private contractors like Blackwater, DynCorp and dozens of others that are part of the US counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan. The millions of dollars that these companies are receiving for their role in the US occupation has been documented by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill.

The other omission by Senator Levin in his statement is the fact that he has voted for the funding of these private contractors in Afghanistan, which means he and other members of Congress are ultimately responsible for the use of those funds. Agreeing to end the use of private contractors in Afghanistan is a good first step, but Levin needs to publicly commit to ending the funding for those contractors and introduce legislation to do so.

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