Report: Replacement force for private security contractors ineffective
By JOSH SMITH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 30, 2013
The government-run force that’s supposed to provide security for many foreign bases and convoys in Afghanistan has often proved inept, and its monopoly could cause security costs to rise, according to a report released on Tuesday by an American watchdog agency.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that the Afghan Public Protection Force hasn’t been able to effectively replace private security contractors as mandated by a 2010 decree from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The SIGAR report focused on the guards needed to protect projects and facilities operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees much of the non-military aid to Afghanistan. Foreign logistics contractors, however, have also complained about APPF, and the problems highlighted by SIGAR have the potential to affect the wide range of foreign organizations that operate in Afghanistan, especially as NATO troops withdraw.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment, but in a general English language FAQ portion of its website, the ministry acknowledged the concerns about overpricing, while defending the APPF as the “best plan available.”
“The Afghan Government has every incentive not to price the costs of necessary security so high that they drive development projects — and private industry — out of Afghanistan,” the website statement noted. The FAQ on the site also states that the APPF has incentives to improve and maintain its capabilities or risk losing $20 billion worth of development and construction.
The APPF, with more than 10,000 guards, charges clients for its services and was supposed to take over external security for facilities like military contractors’ compounds, foreign aid projects and NATO military bases, but the handover deadline has been delayed since 2011.
The actual impact of the APPF’s alleged failures has been minimal on USAID projects, SIGAR noted, but only because the agency turned to so-called “risk management companies,” which are supposed to provide advice, not active security, to fill the gaps.
SIGAR reported that officials in Afghanistan said “APPF officers and non-commissioned officers provided little benefit and were unable to perform required duties.”
The report also warned that the APPF’s effective monopoly could lead to overcharges.
While security costs for USAID projects overall have generally dropped in Afghanistan, SIGAR found the average costs for armed local guards increased by as much as 47 percent under APPF.