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Prosties, Sexual misconduct, Peeing on People at US embassy alleged

WASHINGTON — from – A wide-ranging State Department inquiry into allegations of lewd behavior and sexual misconduct among the private security contractors guarding the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan could lead to the termination of the company’s $189 million contract, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

The allegations made by an independent watchdog group describe “Lord of the Flies” conditions that include threats and intimidation and scenes of guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol.

In at least one case, supervisors brought prostitutes into the quarters where the guards live, a serious breach of security and discipline, the Project on Government Oversight said. In other instances, members of the guard force have drawn Afghans into activities forbidden by Muslims, such as drinking alcoholic beverages.

“We expect to see prompt and effective action taken as a result of these investigations,” the spokesman, Ian C. Kelly, told reporters. Other possible actions include rebidding the contract or replacing individual guards and supervisors employed by the contractor, ArmorGroup North America, he said.

The State Department inspector general is leading the investigation of ArmorGroup. U.S. officials in Kabul also are conducting a review, Kelly said. And a team from the State Department’s diplomatic security, management and contracting offices will go to Kabul to examine the situation.

ArmorGroup and the State Department came under fire Tuesday after the watchdog group said that the nearly 450 ArmorGroup guards live and work in an oppressive environment in which they are subjected to hazing and other inappropriate behavior by supervisors.

The situation has led to a breakdown in morale and leadership that compromises security at the embassy where nearly 1,000 U.S. diplomats, staff and Afghan nationals work, according to the nonprofit group.

With insurgent attacks in Afghanistan increasing, any lapses in security put the diplomatic mission there at risk, the group said in a 10-page letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that details the results of its investigation of the guard force.

The State Department has been aware of ArmorGroup’s failings, the letter said, but has failed to correct the problems. Instead, it has renewed the contract twice, with the most recent installment good through July 2010.

Kelly acknowledged that ArmorGroup has been notified eight times of poor performance since the original contract was awarded in March 2007.

Wackenhut Services, ArmorGroup North America’s parent company, has not responded to requests for comment.

Danielle Brian, the Project on Government Oversight’s executive director, said Wednesday the investigation of ArmorGroup should be handled by Congress, not the State Department.

“I do not have faith that the State Department will do a good job because they are equal partners in the problem,” she said. “They’ve let this happen.”

Brian also said that she was given a copy of an e-mail that an ArmorGroup manager sent to guards telling them not to talk to government inspectors unless a supervisor is present. Such a restriction will make it difficult to do a thorough investigation, she said.

The Project on Government Oversight’s findings are based on interviews with ArmorGroup guards, documents, photographs and e-mails that it said depict a “Lord of the Flies” environment. The reference is to the 1954 novel by William Golding about a group of British schoolboys who are stranded on a desert island and try, but fail, to govern themselves in a chaotic setting.

One e-mail from a guard describes lurid conditions at Camp Sullivan, the guards’ quarters a few miles from the embassy. The message described scenes of abuse, including guards and supervisors urinating on people and “threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity.”

Photographs show guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties that took place near the housing of other supervisors.

“There were some things going on in Kabul that we were not aware of, but we frankly should have been aware of,” Kelly said.

ArmorGroup’s management is aware of the conditions but has not stopped it or disciplined those responsible, the letter said. Two supervisors alleged to be the worst offenders have been allowed to resign and may now be working on other U.S. contracts, the group said.

from -The US Embassy in Kabul has banned alcohol from the camp where supervisors are alleged to have indulged in drunken hazings, nude drinking bouts and abuse of subordinates.

The move was a belated attempt at damage limitation after video footage and photographs emerged to back up allegations by security guards who said that the unruly and abusive behavior at Camp Sullivan was putting security at risk at the embassy, which has been attacked in the past by rockets and suicide bombers.

The footage and photographs have also tarnished the image of the US in Afghanistan, an Islamic republic that is observing Ramadan.

The decision to ban alcohol was made at a meeting yesterday by the US Ambassador, who is a former army general, and other senior embassy staff, after the State Department said that it was sending inspectors to Kabul to look into the allegations that the 450 guards, employed by ArmorGroup North America, had been behaving badly and performing poorly.

Video footage showed what looked more like a drunken stag night in Estonia than professional security guards who are responsible for hundreds of lives in one of the most hostile countries in the world. Other photographs show Afghan personnel being goaded into drinking alcohol, something that could put their security at risk in this Muslim country.

The e-mail described supervisors “peeing on people, eating potato chips [crisps] out of [buttock] cracks, broken doors after drunken brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity”.

The conditions were alleged to have created a “climate of fear and coercion,” with anyone refusing to join in being mocked, humiliated or even fired.

Although the country is officially called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamist Taleban are waging an insurgency in the south and east, alcohol is available in Kabul, a relatively calm city where expatriate parties are common and Western aid workers, diplomats and journalists wine and dine in garden restaurants, behind high walls and with security protection. Alcohol is shipped in by bonded container through Pakistan and is priced steeply.

The breach of discipline was exposed in an e-mail sent anonymously by a guard in Kabul, who described the situation as akin to the novel Lord of the Flies and called those in charge of the security outfit “a group of sexual predators”. The e-mail added that there were “deviants running rampant over there. We are not Boy Scouts but there should be some expectation of professionalism.”

The accusations have come at a damaging time in a country where many are suspicious of the Americans, whose planned troop surge to combat the Taleban is seen as an occupation.

The US and its international partners in Afghanistan are also struggling to come up with a solution to allegations of fraud in the election that secured a second term for President Karzai.


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