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Canadians hire warlord for security Print
Documents reveal contractors guarding remote Afghan bases
 
Mike Blanchfield and Andrew Mayeda - CanWest News Service - November 22, 2007

KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan -- The Canadian Forces have hired a former Afghan warlord to provide private security guards at one of Canada's remote forward operating bases deep in the heart of Taliban country, CanWest News Service has learned.

Military officials say the government employs private security contractors to protect its forward operating bases in Kandahar province, but they refuse to identify the contractors or the bases they protect.

However, an analysis of publicly available contract records and documents, obtained under the Access to Information Act, has determined that one of the contractors is Gen. Gulalai, a former warlord aligned with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In January, the Defence Department awarded a $168,150 contract to a vendor identified as "General Gulalai" to provide security guards at an undisclosed forward operating base.

Gulalai was one of several southern Afghanistan warlords who helped drive the Taliban from their Kandahar stronghold in 2001, enabling Karzai to consolidate power in Kabul.

In December 2002, forces loyal to Gulalai clashed with police in Kandahar City. According to a Reuters report, the Gulalai forces were asked to disarm but refused, triggering a gun battle in which three soldiers were killed and five other people wounded, including two shopkeepers.

Private security contractors have been under close scrutiny since employees of Blackwater USA, charged with guarding a convoy of U.S. State Department officials, opened fire last month in a Baghdad public square, killing 17 civilians.

In Afghanistan, the governments of NATO coalition nations such as Canada commonly employ private security firms to guard embassies and convoys of government officials.

Most of these firms are at least partly owned or managed by former military officers from western countries such as Britain and the United States, although they have been known to hire former Afghan militia commanders and their supporters.

A handful of firms have taken on contracts in the more volatile southern provinces, including Kandahar. U.S. Protection and Investigations, for example, has protected road building projects carried out by the U.S. government's development agency.

The Canadian Embassy in Kabul is guarded by Saladin Security, a British-based firm.

Heavily censored contract records, released under the Access to Information Act, suggest the firm can also be called upon to guard Canadian "military facilities."

The military has three main FOBs in the province: Masum Ghar, Wilson and Sperwan Ghar. All three are sparse, crude installations compared with Kandahar Airfield, the massive NATO base that houses Canada's command centre.

Taliban insurgents regularly attack the FOBs with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Earlier this month, Defence Minister Peter MacKay narrowly escaped a rocket attack by insurgents at FOB Wilson.

Canadian soldiers are usually far better equipped than local Afghan fighters, who typically carry Soviet-era Kalashnikovs and drive around in unarmoured pickup trucks.

Government records obtained by CanWest News Service under Access to Information also reveal the use of private security services in Afghanistan's urban centres.

For instance, an undisclosed contractor was paid $236,926.92 to protect Canada's Strategic Advisory Team, which supports the Karzai government in Kabul.

The Defence Department also paid an unnamed contractor $25,632 to provide protection and "defensive supplies" for Afghan New Year's celebrations.

Another former warlord, Col. Haji Toorjan, has been hired to provide security at Camp Nathan Smith, home of the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar City.

Toorjan's militia force of roughly 60 Afghan fighters has guarded the base and even guided Canadian soldiers on patrols.

Toorjan is believed to be allied with former Kandahar governor Gul Agha Sherzai, according to Nasrullah Duranni, regional manager of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency.

However, no vendor by the name of "Toorjan" is found in publicly available contract records.
 
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