This video from the USA is called Blackwater…murder for hire? with Jeremy Scahill.
Blackwater/Xe is very active in the Afghan war.
Afghans protest deaths of civilians: here.
Internecine murder in the Karzai dynasty: here.
Scholars agree: Afghan war is illegal: here.
Afghan authorities were distancing themselves Friday from investigations into a suicide bomb attack that killed seven CIA agents, the US spy agency’s biggest single loss of life in almost 30 years: here.
Washington has revealed that the suicide rate for returning war veterans aged 18-29 soared by 26 per cent from 2005-7: here.
At least eight Afghan civilians were killed and a dozen wounded Tuesday during a street protest in a volatile town along the Helmand River, after a raid on an Afghan home Sunday by American and Afghan forces: here.
Executives of two British security companies were among 22 people arrested in the US on Monday charged with charges of bribery, corruption and money laundering, it has been confirmed: here.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed the private military firms Blackwater and DynCorp are operating in Pakistan. Gates made the admission in an interview with the Pakistani network Express TV: here.
Pentagon backtracks after Gates ‘admits’ Blackwater operating in Pakistan: here.
AFGHAN PULLOUT FINAL: PM
Rules out troops past 2011; dismisses election claims
By David Akin, Canwest News ServiceJanuary 7, 2010
Stephen Harper says almost all Canadian soldiers will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2011, making some of his most definitive statements yet on his vision of Canada’s future role there in an interview yesterday with Canwest News Service and the National Post.
Parliament has already decided that the combat mission involving about 2,500 troops in southern Afghanistan centred around Kandahar will end in 2011. The Department of National Defence has already started preparing detailed plans to move troops and equipment home.
But at various times over the past two years since that decision was made, there has been some consideration about using Canadian Forces personnel in a different or non-combat capacity or to station Canadian soldiers in a different, more peaceful part of the country.
Mr. Harper ruled out such possibilities.
“We will not be undertaking any kind of activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission,” the Prime Minister said.
“We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy.”
Mr. Harper also said Canada and its NATO allies have lowered their objectives for the mission in Afghanistan.
“I think the reality is that all actors over the past few years have been downgrading their expectations of what can be achieved in Afghanistan,” he said.
“But it is still important that we have a viable, functioning state in Afghanistan that has some acceptable democratic and rule-of-law norms. If we don’t, we run the serious risk of returning in Afghanistan to what we had before. No matter what differences people have on the mission, everybody agrees that the mission has the purpose to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to being a failed state that is an incubator of terrorism.”
Since Canada established its military presence in Afghanistan in 2002, 138 soldiers have died there. Most recently, on Dec. 30, four soldiers and a journalist — Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald — died when their armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device four kilometres south of Kandahar City.
The mission has also claimed the lives of a Canadian diplomat and two aid workers.
Mr. Harper said there are still outstanding questions to be resolved about the role and purpose of Canadian aid officials and Canadian diplomats in Afghanistan after 2011.
“We have been working on those answers but the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011,” he said.
In the interview, in his office in Langevin Block overlooking Parliament Hill, Mr. Harper also doused speculation that he’s gunning for a general election soon.
“I have no desire to have a spring election and I don’t think anybody does. I certainly don’t think the public does,” he said.
Mr. Harper has made those kinds of statements before, though, and yet, in the fall of 2008 went against the spirit of his own fixed election date law and asked Governor-General Michaelle Jean to dissolve Parliament, saying that the opposition parties were blocking any advance of his government’s agenda.
But when he was asked to assure Canadians that, so long as this spring’s budget gets the support of the House of Commons, he would not force an election, Mr. Harper said neither his party nor, he believes, the opposition parties want a campaign this spring.
“Canadians have given us a mandate — it is a minority mandate –we know we have to work in that context and we will continue to try to do so,” he said.
Parliament stands prorogued or suspended until March 3 when MPs will be recalled to hear a Speech from the Throne– Mr. Harper’s fifth since taking office in 2006 — which will be followed the next day by a federal budget.
The House of Commons votes on both the Throne Speech and the budget. The budget vote is always a matter of confidence and the vote on the Speech from the Throne usually is a matter of confidence.
If the government loses a confidence vote at any time, a general election is the result. If not, the next fixed date for a federal election is in the fall of 2012.
© Copyright (c) National Post
US oversight agency investigating 38 cases of reconstruction abuse in Afghanistan
KIM GAMEL Associated Press Writer
9:06 AM CST, January 12, 2010
Assistant Inspector for Investigations Raymond DiNunzio speaks during a joint press conference with Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction Gen. Arnold Fields at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. Officials say the U.S. agency overseeing tens of billions of dollars in Afghanistan reconstruction projects is investigating 38 criminal cases ranging from contract and procurement fraud to bribery and theft. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) (Musadeq Sadeq, AP / January 12, 2010)
KABUL (AP) — The U.S. agency overseeing the multibillion dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort is investigating 38 criminal cases ranging from contract fraud to theft — most involving non-Afghans, officials said Tuesday.
The reconstruction effort has come under increased scrutiny as Defense Department contractors pour into Afghanistan to support the U.S. military surge. But the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, headed by retired Marine Corps Gen. Arnold Fields, was only established by Congress in 2008, nearly seven years after the U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban.
Just 10 of the criminal cases under the microscope involve Afghans only, while the rest involve U.S. and other foreigners, according to Raymond DiNunzio, the agency’s assistant inspector general for inspections. He would not elaborate since the cases are under investigation.
Afghanistan also faces intense pressure to control rampant corruption in the country, but its institutions are weak after years of war and civil strife.
Fields acknowledged that the government might not be ready to deal with the flow of additional funds into Afghanistan as the international communicate escalates the mission to stabilize the country.
“We suspect … that there may not necessarily be the capacity here to absorb additional funding when it comes to the government of Afghanistan, but we are not sure yet,” he said at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
He said his office also plans to increase staff from 90 in 2008 to 118 by the end of this year and a projected 132 in 2011.
“We are ramping up commensurate with the increased numbers and spending expected here in Afghanistan,” he said.
The international community has invested more than $60 billion since 2002 in reconstruction efforts, including $40 billion from the U.S. alone. Concerns have been raised in past months that the waste and fraud that has undermined the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq is being repeated in Afghanistan, particularly as the number of contractors rises.
More than 60 percent of the investigators had experience in Iraq, DiNunzio said.
“They have come over from our sister agency responsible for Iraq reconstruction as the U.S. winds down its involvement in that country,” he said.
DiNunzio said 40 percent of the criminal cases involve allegations of program fraud, procurement fraud or contract fraud while the other 60 percent involve bribery allegations and theft of emergency military funds. Two other investigations are under way into cases involving alleged negligence and incompetence, he said.
The agency also has stepped up efforts to involve the public, opening a hot line for reports of fraud involving U.S. reconstruction funds.
The inspector general’s office is responsible for monitoring a broad range of projects, including training of the Afghan army and police, and ensuring U.S. tax dollars are spent properly.
Former Xe guard from Beach ordered jailed without bond
By Tim McGlone
© January 13, 2010
A former security contractor charged with killing two Afghan civilians in an alcohol-fueled attack was ordered jailed without bond Tuesday as emerging details portrayed the Virginia Beach man as a rogue who joined the firm once known as Blackwater after getting booted from the Marine Corps.
Christopher Drotleff, 29, could face the death penalty if convicted in the May 5 incident in Kabul.
“He’s shown himself to be someone whose word can’t be trusted and is prone to going rogue,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Stoker told U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy E. Miller.
A second man charged, Justin Cannon, 27, was arrested in Texas and is awaiting extradition.
At Drotleff’s bond hearing in U.S. District Court, Stoker laid out the defendant’s military record, showing that he repeatedly disobeyed his command, disappeared without authorization, and stole from the government before finally receiving an other-than-honorable discharge in 2001, after about two years into his service.
Drotleff then returned home and repeatedly met trouble with Virginia Beach police, getting arrested several times on charges of resisting arrest, assault and drunken driving, Stoker said.
But Drotleff’s lawyer, and his wife outside the hearing, painted a different picture: of a man who simply wanted to serve his country and who once became a police informant, going undercover wearing a hidden microphone to catch four individuals selling illegal guns.
Beach attorney Lawrence H. Woodward Jr. also presented a vastly different portrait of the incident in Afghanistan from what prosecutors allege. Woodward told the court that Drotleff and Cannon acted in self-defense when the Afghan civilians tried to plow them over while they stopped to help their partners, who had driven off a road.
At the time, Drotleff was working for the security firm Paravant, a subsidiary of Xe, the Moyock, N.C.-based company once known as Blackwater. He and his partners were transporting interpreters when one vehicle with them ran off the road and flipped over, Woodward said. When Drotleff and Cannon got out to help, Woodward said, the civilians came out of nowhere and tried to run them down.
Drotleff, carrying a 9mm pistol, and Cannon, with an AK-47 assault rifle, fired at the vehicle, which then sped off. The two men helped the accident victims out and sought medical help, not knowing that any civilians had been struck by their bullets.
But Stoker told a different story. He said Drotleff had been consuming alcohol, against Paravant and Department of Defense policy, when he and Cannon left a military base without authorization. Stoker says they were involved in a crash with two Afghan civilians, then became “agitated” and opened fire on them.
The Afghan driver was wounded. The passenger died from a gunshot wound to the back. A third man – a bystander who happened to be walking by – died from a gunshot to the head, Stoker said.
Drotleff’s wife, in an interview Tuesday, described her husband as a devoted family man.
“He’s a great man, a wonderful father, a great husband and a patriot,” Gina Drotleff said just before Tuesday’s bond hearing. “We’ve known each other for 11 years and been married for nine. I wouldn’t be with someone who wasn’t a good person.”
The couple met while Drotleff was stationed in Hawaii. Gina Drotleff was there on vacation when she spotted the Marine while rollerblading near the beach in Waikiki. She approached him and asked for a date.
“The main thing that attracted me to him was that he was a gentleman,” she said. “It took him a month to even hold my hand.”
The couple married in 2000 and have two children, a 3½-year-old son and a 7-week-old daughter.
She said she had no idea her husband might be facing murder charges.
“It’s a shock,” she said.
Tim McGlone, (757) 446-2343, email@example.com
Judge orders held US suspect in Afghan deaths
By the Associated Press
January 19, 2010
NORFOLK, Va. – A judge has ordered detained until trial a former Blackwater contractor charged in the shooting deaths of two Afghans.
A bond hearing Tuesday in Norfolk, U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar said that 29-year-old Chris Drotleff is a danger to the community and poses a risk of flight.
A U.S. magistrate had come to the same conclusion Jan. 12 and attorneys for the Virginia Beach man appealed.
Drotleff and another former contractor are charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. His trial date has not been scheduled.
The former contractors have said they were justified in opening fire last year on a car that caused an accident in front of their vehicle at a Kabul intersection, then sped toward them.
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