A Senate investigation has found that military-funded, private Afghan security forces that guard U.S. bases and convoys are riddled with drug users and insurgents, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Senate Armed Services Committee reviewed 125 military security contracts, finding “untrained guards, insufficient and unserviceable weapons, unmanned posts.” They also found that private U.S. security firms employed local Taliban warlords to recruit personnel. The failure of military contractors to adequately vet and supervise Afghan staff has sometimes proved deadly: In one case cited by investigators, a marine was shot when Afghan security guards ambushed a Marine foot patrol in Farah province. Private security firms say it is difficult to find trustworthy staff: “Where are they going to get guys who have never smoked hashish, who have never worked for the Taliban or who have never considered joining the Taliban?” said an industry spokesman. The vast majority of Afghanistan’s 26,000 private security officers are under contract with the U.S. government and are paid to guard convoys and military bases. Hamid Karzai’s government wants to disband the security firms by the end of the year. The U.S. supports the move, though worries remain that the Afghan police are unprepared to shoulder security responsibilities.
Signs of Compromise on Israeli Settlements
The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has brought Middle East peace talks initiated by the Obama administration to the brink of collapse. On Thursday, however, there were signs that both sides might be moving toward compromise following desperate efforts by U.S. mediators to salvage the talks, reports the Associated Press. A Palestinian official indicated that Palestinians were amenable to a U.S. idea of a two-month construction freeze during which a border agreement might be reached. Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador acknowledged that the U.S. has been offering his country incentives to extend a recently expired ban on settlement construction. The Israeli side has been less flexible on the issue, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under extreme pressure from pro-settlement groups not to extend the building moratorium. The issue will come to a head today with the meeting of the Arab League, which is expected to endorse the Palestinian position. State Department diplomats are hoping the league will vote to support negotiations rather than shut them down. Read original story in AP | Friday, Oct. 8, 2010