According to a State Department spokesman, a new review currently underway within the department might result in controversial security company ArmorGroup North America losing its $189 million contract to guard the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
“Action with regard to the existing static guard contract in Afghanistan is under review,” said Andrew Laine, a spokesman for the State Department, in an email to TWI. Asked if that meant the department might revoke ArmorGroup’s contract, Laine replied, “That is certainly a consideration.”
ArmorGroup has vexed the State Department ever since the department hired the company in 2007 to protect the embassy. Security failures, including a chronic inability of its guards to speak sufficient English and arduous 12 to 14-hour guard shifts, have plagued the contract, to the point where State representatives in Kabul issued multiple reprimands to the company. Whistleblowers from the company have alleged additional derelictions, including involvement in prostitution against U.S. law; pocketing money extracted from the department to buy better vehicles; and use of taxpayer money to purchase shoddy winter clothing from a company run by an ArmorGroup official’s wife. On Sept. 1, Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, wroteto Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton to round up the abuses, as well as to disclose photographs of ArmorGroup employees engaged in physical and sexual harassment. In a statementyesterday to a congressionally mandated commission on wartime contracting, Brian said that she heard the department will “transition security of the U.S. Embassy Kabul from ArmorGroup to trained Afghan nationals over the next three years.” She later clarified to me that she had heard from an embassy contact that State was looking at phasing in Afghan nationals but not necessarily getting rid of ArmorGroup — meaning, for instance, that State might mandate ArmorGroup to hire more Afghans to protect the embassy. Laine clarified, “It has always been the goal of the State Department to transition the static guard force in both Afghanistan and Iraq to local national employees. The timing will depend upon the situation on the scene.”
But now this new review might result in revoking ArmorGroup’s contract altogether. Laine did not know who specifically is running the review, nor would he put a timetable on it, pledging instead that it would be “thorough and comprehensive.” More details as they emerge.