US Embassy Kabul: POGO Story Day 4

MSNBC is reporting that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said Friday it had fired eight guards following allegations of lewd conduct and sexual misconduct in their living quarters. Two other guards had resigned, the embassy said in a statement. See the coverage here. I have not seen the official statement; will post it when I find it.

POGO has also issued a statement on the ArmorGroup guard firings here.

Updated: Statement from US Embassy Kabul dated September 4 added below:

September 4, 2009
U.S. Embassy Statement on Local Guard Force

The U.S. Embassy has taken further steps to investigate the unacceptable behavior of the employees working for Armor Group North America under contract to the Department of State:

— Ten guards seen in the offensive photos are leaving the country today; eight were terminated and two resigned.
— The entire Senior Management Team of Armor Group North America in Kabul is being replaced immediately.
— The Embassy Security Office continues its interviews of every one of the Armor Group guards.
— The team from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has arrived in Kabul and has begun a full investigation.

In addition, the Embassy takes this opportunity to urge all employees of all contractors working for the U.S. Government in Afghanistan to report any employment issues to the hotline of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction: (website: www.sigar.mil\fraud, e-mail: hotline@sigar.mil, phone: +93(0)700107300).

We will continue to take every possible step to ensure the safety and security of U.S. Embassy personnel, while respecting the values of all Afghans, Americans and contract employees and visitors from other countries.

The POGO story also continues to make it into the Daily Press Brief, so the interest on this story has yet to dissipate. As of September 4, three investigations has been reportedly started: 1) by SIGAR, 2) by Management/DS, and 3) by the US Embassy Kabul. A regular OIG inspection is reportedly going to be conducted at the US Embassy Kabul within the next couple of months, too.

I don’t know why they’re not conducting a unified investigation here. Are those supervisors and guards going to be interviewed three times by three different teams conducting three investigations resulting in three reports?

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Quickie: Chuck Hagel on the Limits of Force

Things will never be the sameImage by G a r r y via Flickr


Chuck Hagel on The Limits Of Force | Iraq and Afghanistan Aren’t Ours to Win or Lose (TWP | September 3, 2009
): Excerpt below:

The other night I watched the film “The Deer Hunter.” Afterward, I remembered why it took me so many years to be able to watch Vietnam movies.
[…]
It all came tumbling back — the tragedy, the innocent victims, the waste. Too often in Washington we tend to see foreign policy as an abstraction, with little understanding of what we are committing our country to: the complications and consequences of endeavors. It is easy to get into war, not so easy to get out. Vietnam lasted more than 10 years; soon, we will slip into our ninth year in Afghanistan. We have been in Iraq for almost seven years.
[…]
Are our policies worthy of these Americans’ great sacrifices? That question must always be at the fore of our leaders’ decisions. Threats to America come from more than Afghanistan. Consider Yemen and Somalia. Are we prepared to put U.S. ground troops there?

Read the whole thing here.

US Embassy Kabul: OIG Report from 2006 Shows Up

You know things are moving fast when even a 4-year old OIG report on US Embassy Kabul is found and posted 2-4 days after the POGO story. I don’t know if this was a result of a FOIA request or if State’s OIG office simply anticipated interest on this prior report.

The OIG inspection took place in Washington, D.C., between September 6 and September 30, 2005, and in Kabul, Afghanistan, between October 6 and October 30, 2005.

In its report dated January 2006, the OIG says in part:

Embassy Kabul is staffed by energetic, capable employees who work tirelessly to accomplish their work. All assigned Americans are volunteers, a factor that enhances esprit de corps.

Afghanistan presents a dangerous and stressful operating environment. Stringent security requirements constrain work schedules, consume large amounts of human and other resources, restrict mobility, and directly affect post morale. The conduct of the embassy’s protective detail projects an overly aggressive image that has the potential to generate negative opinions of the United States.


As far as I know, t
he US Embassy Kabul continues to be staff by State Department and other agency employees who volunteer for one-year assignments in Afghanistan. Afghanistan also continues to present a dangerous and stressful operating environment. If you look at the coalition military casualties by month, you will see the casualties in an upward trajectory since 2005 but with the highest level in August 2009. But that IG statement on the security details appears prescient given what happened in Baghdad with Blackwater/Xe, doesn’t it?

OIG Saw the Future on Staffing Numbers

The exact number of employees under chief of mission authority in Afghanistan varies widely from month to month, and even from day to day. At the time of the inspection, best estimates were 180 direct-hire Americans and 343 FSNs. FY 2005 funding for the mission was approximately $62.75 million. One embassy officer compared the process of ascertaining staff numbers to “trying to catch flies with chopsticks.” These totals do not include positions in the pipeline for approval, the ever-fluctuating pool of long-term and short-term TDY employees at the mission, or the growing number of personal services contractors. The only certainty is that the numbers are increasing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Fast-forward to 2009 and the civilian surge …. people in the pipeline … the IG saw the staffing up of US Mission Afghanistan four years before it happened. I imagine that putting down the staffing numbers at post would still be similar to “trying to catch flies with chopsticks.”

In any case, whoever requested this file was presumably interested in looking at the local guard issue at the US Embassy, the cause of so many news feed in the last 72 hours. I should note that Armor Group, North America did not get the guard contract until March 2007. Previous to that, the contract was held by a company called MVM terminated for “failure to meet contract requirements” according to State’s Logistics Management DAS, William H. Moser. Below is what the OIG report says about the local guard contract four years ago.

Diplomatic Security Service (United States) - sealImage via Wikipedia

DS did not submit requirements for local guard services to the Office of Acquisitions with sufficient lead-time to allow full and open competition. As a result, the local guard contract was awarded on an urgent and noncompetitive basis. DS officials say that requirements were submitted late because they received late notification from Defense of its plans to withdraw its combat Marine Task Force from Kabul. However, OIG learned that Defense gave official notification to the Department six months before deployment and gave earlier verbal notification of its plans on several occasions. This lack of advance planning by DS and lack of coordination among government agencies led to higher local guard contract cost. This noncompetitively awarded contract has been costing DS approximately $6 million per month since the departure of the combat Marines on March 31, 2005. A new local guard contract, awarded on a competitive basis on July 7, 2005, to become effective on December 1, 2005, will cost the U.S. government less than $2 million per month – a significant reduction.

There are legitimate reasons for issuing contracts on an urgent basis and also for contractual delays, but OIG found no evidence in the contract files that suggests DS conducted advance acquisition planning within time frames suggested in the Federal Acquisition Regulations. FAR 7.104 states that acquisition planning should begin as soon as an agency identifies a need, preferably well in advance of the fiscal year in which contract award or order placement is necessary. In August 2004, OIG made a recommendation to correct similar acquisition planning issues in its inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Infrastructure.


So that’s that until more reports are dug up. This is going to be a loooong September. May seem particularly long for DS. The Middle East Regional Office (MERO) of the DOS OIG is also currently reviewing the Diplomatic Security’s management of WPPS in Afghanistan. The review which started in March 2009 is looking at what studies and needs assessments were conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to determine PPS requirements in Afghanistan and what mechanisms are in place to ensure personal protective services assets are utilized in an efficient and effective manner. This report is bound to show up in the next couple of months.


Related Item:

OIG Report No. ISP-I-06-13A, Inspection of Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
January 2006 | PDF