20 June 2010
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In another example of the inanity of the U.S. State Department’s work in Afghanistan, it was revealed several days ago that the U.S. State Department has awarded a $120 million contract for security operations to the United States Training Center (USTC) at new U.S. Consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif and Heart. The USTC is a division of Xe, the new name Blackwater USA chose to hide behind after its indictment for murdering seventeen Iraqi civilians in broad daylight on a busy Baghdad square.
The $120 million contract, split between the two small consulates means that $6.6 million per month will be spent on each consulate— on security alone! Blackwater security workers earn about $18,000/month. Afghan teachers earn about $50/month. For a fair comparison, figure that $50/month is below a living wage in Kabul. It takes three times that to pay rent, buy food and pay all the other bills required to raise a family, as a bare minimum. And that means no meat, no car, and no children going to school, because they have to work to help make up the difference.
Teachers and their families are guaranteed a life of poverty, and are at much greater risk for attack by Talibs than U.S. diplomats. The huge cost of the U.S. diplomatic infrastructure in Afghanistan is a big thorn in the side of the U.S. and the Afghan people.
Some say the pay is high because guards may take a bullet for a civilian. Well, so do policemen in the US, and American soldiers everywhere, but their hourly pay is a tiny fraction of Blackwater’s mercenaries.
This contract is disappointing news for people who hoped that the U.S. administration and Pentagon were serious about supporting Afghan society’s great needs beyond wildly expensive military actions. Billions flow to American war profiteers—both over-paid State employees and civilian contractors— and a woefully inadequate amount goes for Afghan healthcare, utilities, education, transportation, and judicial system.
Contracts like Blackwater’s are a terrible example for Afghans and Afghan government workers. It proves the argument that the only way to get ahead in Afghanistan is to cozy-up to the powerful and hope to be rewarded with a ridiculously over-paid contract. It is a situation that Americans, with their trillions of dollars of debt, should be loudly protesting. It is a horrible negation of responsibility by the U.S. State Department to both the people of Afghanistan and the people of the United States.