Afghan Guards Out of Control

Security guards in Afghanistan are trigger-happy, heroin-addict mercenaries.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


This story first appeared on the ProPublica website.

“Trigger-happy” private security guards in Afghanistan are killing civilians and undercutting counterinsurgency efforts, reports today’s Army Times.

About twice a week, convoys up to 50 vehicles long snake westward on Highway 1 in Afghanistan, ferrying supplies to coalition bases in Helmand province. The road runs through the Maywand district in Kandahar province, where more than 30 civilians have been wounded or killed in the past four years by the private guards tasked with protecting the convoys, according to the district’s senior Afghan intelligence representative.

A U.S. officer in the area, Capt. Casey Thoreen, tells the paper that the heavily armed guards—mostly Afghans themselves—are like “gun-toting mercenaries with probably not a whole lot of training.” The Afghan district chief said that most of them are heroin addicts.

So who hired them? Army Times finds an answer elusive:

Until recently, the identities of the companies for whom the security guards worked remained shrouded in mystery, even from the coalition headquarters whose troops they are supplying. [Lt. Col. Jeff French] said he requested information on the companies through his higher brigade headquarters—5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division—but had yet to receive any word back.

An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman said the convoy security workers are employees of the logistics contractors running the convoys. Those contractors work for one or several of the ISAF, NATO or 26 countries operating in Afghanistan. As a result, he said he did not know how much is spent on the security firms or which companies had hired them.

As for the coalition’s response to the allegations of misconduct, a spokesman, Col. Wayne M. Shanks, told Army Times that the coalition forces weren’t involved in vetting the security guards, but “all credible allegations of improper actions by contractors are fully investigated.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate