World and Nation

Afghans linked to the Taliban guard U.S. bases

WASHINGTON — Afghan private security forces with ties to the Taliban, criminal networks and Iranian intelligence have been hired to guard U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, exposing U.S. soldiers to surprise attack and confounding the fight against insurgents, according to a Senate investigation.

The Pentagon’s oversight of the Afghan guards is virtually nonexistent, allowing local security deals among U.S. military commanders, Western contracting companies and Afghan warlords who are closely connected to the violent insurgency, according to the report by investigators on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The U.S. military has almost no independent information on the Afghans guarding the bases, who are employees of Afghan groups hired as subcontractors by Western firms awarded security contracts by the Pentagon. At one large U.S. air base in western Afghanistan, military personnel did not even know the names of the leaders of the Afghan groups providing base security, investigators found. So they used the nicknames that the contractor was using — Mr. White and Mr. Pink from “Reservoir Dogs,” the 1992 gangster movie by Quentin Tarantino. Mr. Pink was later determined to be a “known Taliban” figure, they reported.

In another incident, the U.S. military bombed a house where it was believed that a Taliban leader was holding a meeting, only to discover later that the house was owned by an Afghan security contractor to the U.S. military, who was meeting with his nephew — the Taliban leader.

Some Afghans hired by EOD Technology, which was awarded a U.S. Army contract to provide security at a training center for Afghan police officers in Adraskan, near Shindand, were also providing information to Iran, the report asserted. The Senate committee said that it had received intelligence from the Defense Intelligence Agency about Afghans working for EOD and that the reporting found that some of them “have been involved in activities at odds with U.S. interests in the region.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee adopted the report by a unanimous vote, although Republican members issued a statement critical of the report for narrowly focusing on case studies in western Afghanistan.

In response to the Senate report, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a letter saying that the Pentagon recognized the problems and had created new task forces to help overhaul contracting procedures in Afghanistan.

“Through the new programs we have implemented, I believe DOD has taken significant steps to benefit our forces on the ground while not providing aid to our enemies,” Gates wrote.

The latest disclosures follow a series of reports, including articles in The New York Times and testimony before a House committee, describing bribes paid by contractors to the Taliban and other warlords to make sure supply convoys for the U.S. military were provided safe passage.