Talk about bad timing. The same week that five former Blackwater private security contractors turn themselves in to authorities in Utah to face manslaughter charges for their role in the September 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post that the U.S. Army has plans to use armed contractors for base security in Afghanistan.
At first glance, this might not seem like big news to anyone who has had to run the gauntlet of Gurkhas, Georgians, Ugandans, and Peruvians pulling interior guard duty at American installations in Iraq – but the Army isn’t talking about DFAC and MWR security details here – the contractors in Afghanistan would 'protect the entry control points of the bases to prevent “threats related to unauthorized personnel, contraband, and instruments of damage, destruction and information collection from entering the installation.”'
The hired guards would be required to carry out surveillance of the perimeter of the base from fixed positions to see whether someone is attempting to sneak inside. They are also to engage in counter-surveillance, watching to see whether someone is monitoring who enters and leaves the base. The contractor guards are also to be available to protect supply routes, facilities, convoys and property.
The guards would be required to employ “the appropriate force to neutralize any threat,” particularly from individuals trying to enter illegally “with the intent to harm personnel or damage facilities and equipment . . . but are NOT authorized to undertake offensive operations.”
While the severely underesourced operation in Afghanistan looks like it will be supplemented by at least one more American brigade in 2009, with the chance for more by year’s end, outsourcing base perimeter security and surveillance sure sounds like an “all hands on deck” call if there ever was one.