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News Link • Contractors, Government & Military

Controversial use of guns-for-hire surges in Afghanistan

• David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The guns-for-hire prowl the Afghanistan highways, heavily armed, sometimes wearing ski-masks and looking like something out of a Road Warrior movie.

Some of them are supplied by local warlords, others work for large U.S. and British corporations — and they are critical to western military operations in the war-torn country.

They protect supply convoys bringing in equipment and other material for the war effort. They stand guard at coalition bases, including those operated by the Canadian military. They provide protection for embassies and they are responsible for training the Afghan National Police.

As the U.S. focuses its attention on Afghanistan, the number of private security personnel is soaring. Afghanistan, which had been a moderate source of employment for security contractors, has become the hot market for guns for hire.
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Xe Services, the security company formerly known as Blackwater, which was infamous for a number of incidents in which civilians were gunned down in Iraq, is now under investigation for its activities in Afghanistan.

In February, Congress heard about claims that Xe Services employees stole weapons and then, while intoxicated, killed two Afghans and injured two others. One of the guards had a criminal record for assault in the U.S. while the other had been kicked out of the U.S. military after testing positive for cocaine.
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In addition, there are questions about the effectiveness of the contractor-operated $1.7 billion training program for the Afghan National Police. That training is provided by the U.S. company DynCorp.
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