Over the past decade, the U.S. military has outsourced its overseas base-support responsibilities to private contractors, which have filled the lowest-paying jobs on military bases with third-country nationals, migrant workers who are neither U.S. citizens nor locals. As of January 2014, there were 37,182 third-country nationals working on bases in the U.S. Central Command region, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq — outnumbering both American and local contract workers.

These laborers do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, construction and other support tasks necessary to operate military facilities. In Afghanistan they primarily come from India and Nepal and are employed by subcontractors for one of two large American companies, Fluor Corp. and Dyncorp International, which manage U.S. bases in Afghanistan under the Department of Defense’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. Dozens of subcontracting companies, mostly headquartered in the Persian Gulf, work on Fluor and Dyncorp contracts.

South Asian workers are at the bottom of the social hierarchy on U.S. bases. They earn far less than American or European contractors, work 12-hour days with little or no time off and, on some bases, aren’t allowed to use cellphones or speak to military personnel. On the base we visited, Camp Marmal, most were surprised and nervous when we approached them, concerned that talking to journalists could get them in trouble. One young man’s face contorted in terror when asked whether he had paid a recruiting fee. He shook his head no, fearful of any reprisals. “To come here, you have to use an agent,” another worker told us. “There is no other way. So we pay money to come.”

[…]

“We can call this bonded labor or human trafficking, because it all starts with false promises about what the job is, and they have to pay an amount to get the job,” Kavinamannil explains. “Debt will make you work anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s a war zone.” When we reached out to Fluor, which manages Camp Marmal, the company said it “provides hotlines to allow individuals to report anonymously any suspected instances of human trafficking” and holds its subcontractors to a “zero tolerance policy regarding trafficking in persons.”


A new investigation by Al Jazeera America looks at the human trafficking system that brings tens of thousands of foreign laborers to work on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. “America’s War Workers” examines how these laborers regularly end up deceived and indebted, victims of local recruiters who charge thousands of dollars and offer false promises of high-paying jobs. They are easy prey for labor traffickers who profit from military contracts. We are joined by Al Jazeera America correspondent Anjali Kamat and producer Sam Black, whose investigation spanned five months and several countries.

[…]

..there’s—the Pentagon, but not just the Pentagon, the prime contractors, Fluor and DynCorp, are insulated from this behavior. And it’s set up purposely to insulate them from this behavior. The U.S. Department of Defense depends on, and over the last 10 years has depended on, thousands, hundreds of thousands of these low-paid workers, and—but with the system they’ve set up, they’re insulated. And, you know, what’s important here is that the money is going the opposite way that you expect: It’s going up the supply chain. The people are paying to work, and the people who are recruiting are paying to recruit. It’s just kind of bizarre. And the people that are making the most profit are essentially rent seeking on the fact that they have the opportunity to offer the job. And it’s because they’re essentially hooked up to the hose of government money that they can do that.


Since the fall of the Taliban government at the start of the war, the United States has invested $10 billion to fight the Afghan drug trade, through efforts such as ending poppy cultivation, halting the manufacture of narcotics, establishing drug treatment programs, and building a robust counternarcotics police force and criminal justice system. This might be money well spent, as 90 percent of the world’s opium originates in Afghanistan. No effort to build a stable nation there can succeed amid the hurricane forces of financial and institutional corruption that come with a thriving drug trade.

But 12 years and $10 billion later, according to Sopko’s testimony, “Afghan farmers are growing more opium poppies today than at any time in their modern history,” and despite the “mammoth investment” of American dollars and blood, “more land in Afghanistan is under poppy cultivation today than it was when the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2002.”

Still, the optimist might argue, good policies under hard conditions take time to bear fruit. So five years after President Obama assumed decisive control over our strategy in Afghanistan and tripled the number of U.S. service members in that war, are his efforts finally set to pay dividends? Said Sopko: “In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond.” As a result, “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last twelve years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”


humanrightswatch:



The War in Afghanistan is Escalating, Not Ending
Many people are breathing a sigh of relief to see international combat troops leaving Afghanistan. All foreign combat forces are slated to withdraw by the end-2014 deadline, and many have already gone. Deaths among foreign troops have fallen reassuringly.
For Afghans, however, the war goes on. Many civilians are being injured and killed. More than 400 Afghan soldiers and police are dying each month. People are fleeing their homes – almost 60,000 of them in the first six months of 2013 – and many are trying desperately to get their families to safety outside the country. For them, there is no end in sight.
And in many respects, the war is escalating. A United Nations report released today shows a 23 percent increase in civilian casualties so far this year compared with the same period in 2012. Among the civilians hardest hit? Women and children. Civilian casualties of women caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are up by a mind-boggling 138 percent over 2012, and overall civilian casualties of women are up by 61 percent, while injuries and deaths of children are up by 30 percent over 2012.
Read more.

Photo: An Afghan boy cries during a funeral of members of his family in Logar province, Afghanistan on March 27, 2013. © Reuters

humanrightswatch:

The War in Afghanistan is Escalating, Not Ending

Many people are breathing a sigh of relief to see international combat troops leaving Afghanistan. All foreign combat forces are slated to withdraw by the end-2014 deadline, and many have already gone. Deaths among foreign troops have fallen reassuringly.

For Afghans, however, the war goes on. Many civilians are being injured and killed. More than 400 Afghan soldiers and police are dying each month. People are fleeing their homes – almost 60,000 of them in the first six months of 2013 – and many are trying desperately to get their families to safety outside the country. For them, there is no end in sight.

And in many respects, the war is escalating. A United Nations report released today shows a 23 percent increase in civilian casualties so far this year compared with the same period in 2012. Among the civilians hardest hit? Women and children. Civilian casualties of women caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are up by a mind-boggling 138 percent over 2012, and overall civilian casualties of women are up by 61 percent, while injuries and deaths of children are up by 30 percent over 2012.

Read more.

Photo: An Afghan boy cries during a funeral of members of his family in Logar province, Afghanistan on March 27, 2013. © Reuters


latimes:

EXCLUSIVE: Photos show U.S. troops posing with body parts of Afghan bombers: An American soldier says he released the photos to the Los Angeles Times to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation.

The photos have emerged at a particularly sensitive moment for U.S.-Afghan relations. In January, a video appeared on the Internet showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base triggered riots that left 30 dead and led to the deaths of six Americans. In March, a U.S. Army sergeant went on a nighttime shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17.
The soldier who provided The Times with a series of 18 photos of soldiers posing with corpses did so on condition of anonymity. He served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C. He said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.

Photo: A soldier from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division with the body of an Afghan insurgent killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. The photo is one of 18 provided to The Times of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses.

What’s far more sickening is the selective abhorrence that the populace, who never have to deal with violent death every single day, who never have to deal with invisible insurgents trying to kill you, display only when such pictures emerge.

latimes:

EXCLUSIVE: Photos show U.S. troops posing with body parts of Afghan bombers: An American soldier says he released the photos to the Los Angeles Times to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has started a criminal investigation.

The photos have emerged at a particularly sensitive moment for U.S.-Afghan relations. In January, a video appeared on the Internet showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base triggered riots that left 30 dead and led to the deaths of six Americans. In March, a U.S. Army sergeant went on a nighttime shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17.

The soldier who provided The Times with a series of 18 photos of soldiers posing with corpses did so on condition of anonymity. He served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C. He said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.

Photo: A soldier from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division with the body of an Afghan insurgent killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. The photo is one of 18 provided to The Times of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses.

What’s far more sickening is the selective abhorrence that the populace, who never have to deal with violent death every single day, who never have to deal with invisible insurgents trying to kill you, display only when such pictures emerge.