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The Baghdadization of Kabul?

There’s a haunting paragraph in Nancy Youssef’s dispatch from Kabul today. She writes about the influx of U.S. diplomats and other civilians to Kabul — generally considered a Good Thing, even if their activities may be less necessary in the capitol than in the provinces but whatever — and how their presence is, ironically, making the city’s residents feel anxious, not safer. Why? Well, among other reasons:

It’s not just State Department employees who come with their own security details outfitted with huge SUVs and pointed weapons. Afghan government officials now travel in similar fashion, leaving drivers flummoxed about what to do to get out of the way. Some convoys pull up to sedans and point guns at the drivers, others set up checkpoints with varying rules on how not to get shot and still others simply close off roads that Afghans once traveled freely on.

When there’s foreign dignitaries coming through the capital city of a war-torn country, there’s going to be contracted security. And those security contractors do not typically feel any need to make nice with the locals. Instead, to keep the locals at a safe distance — safe for the dignitaries, that is — from the officials they guard, the contractors use fear, intimidation and, on occasion, violence. Already we’re seeing Xe affiliates firing on unarmed civilians for the crime of driving too closing to them while the contractors had been drinking. More security contractors in Kabul raises the awful prospect of another Nisour Square.

Relatedly, in a few weeks, the State Department’s security contract, known as the Worldwide Personal Protective Services deal, gets re-awarded. I’ll be paying close attention to whether State looks to switch over contractors from the Xe-DynCorp-Triple Canopy triad it currently employs.

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