According to The New York Times , a Xe (formerly Blackwater) contract for aviation services in Iraq was supposed to expire today. Xe was to “be replaced by DynCorp International,” but DynDorps is not ready to take on the work. The decision to switch companies has been delayed, and questions could be raised about DynCorp in the meantime.
The number of contractors now exceeds the number of troops, according to The New York Times. It is a combustible mix of the private and public sector that led in part to the Abu Ghraib scandal, where contractors set an example of wild, savage behavior when they watched over the detainees, and the soldiers followed suit. The problems continue to haunt places like the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. As Ginger Thompsonreports, the Embassy “guards worked in a ‘Lord of the Flies’ environment."
A Washington Post article about a forthcoming report on the war from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystalsays that “the Taliban is far more sophisticated than it was just a few years ago.” It is clear that the Taliban has gotten extremely good at fighting Americans, particularly since McChrystal is hinting that he wants more troops and that “greater “resolve’” is needed to win the war. But how bad things really are is not clear from many of the news accounts, particularly those that are based on commanders’ reports to people in Washington.
Everyone wanted things to go well on August 20, and few people have worked harder to make the polling stations safe and secure than the U.S. Marines. Lt. Col. Dale Alford was there on the day that Hamid Karzai was elected, overseeing a unit of men who were providing security at the polling sites. Up until that moment, they had been concerned about what would happen.
“Back then,” he recalled, “everybody thought Al Qaeda would do massive disruption, but they didn’t.” This time around, he knew about the obstacles facing the people in Afghanistan and how difficult it would be Afghans to keep the peace on Election Day. “There are thousands of polling places that have to be guarded,” he told me.
In recent articles, a Stars and Stripes reporter has claimed that officials screen reporters before allowing them to interview people in the military or embed with a unit in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that they have been accepting or rejecting journalists’ requests based on whether or not their previous coverage has been favorable to the military.