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Illicit sex and boozing by civilian U.S. contractors and officials in Afghanistan undermining mission

U.S. Embassy silent on sex trafficking, brothels and other abuses; U.S. troops would be jailed for similar activities

Sunday 15 November 2009, by Matthew J. Nasuti (Former U.S. Air Force Captain)

by: Matthew J. Nasuti, former U.S. Air Force Captain with the First Special Operations Wing and Senior City Management Advisor with the U.S. State Department (2008)

America’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan has done little to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans, but the arrival of American, NATO and UN officials and contractors has generated a growing demand for prostitutes, created a flourishing sex trade industry in Kabul and helped to spur the trafficking in prostitutes, some of them children. Afghan women have heard speeches and have been asked to participate in photo opportunities by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (i.e., they have received the equivalent of trinkets and baubles) but otherwise they have been ignored. Abuses against women during wartime always seem to be considered inevitable and therefore somehow acceptable.

With a high profile woman as U.S. Secretary of State, this war should be different. This article reviews the direct and indirect culpability of the U.S. Embassy in the abuse of Afghan women and it offers concrete solutions. One solution is to have the U.S. Marines immediately replace the scandal-ridden private security companies that currently guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“After the fall of the Taliban in 2001 women were promised new freedoms. But now many are being forced into prostitution as a result of worsening poverty.” Lifting the Veil on the Afghan Sex Trade, by Rajeshree Sisodia (April 9, 2006) published by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

Lisa Tang of the Associated Press, in a June 15, 2008, story carried by USA Today entitled: Sex Trade Thrives in Afghanistan interviewed a 13 year old Afghan girl who had been a prostitute for the past two years. Her story, sadly, is not unique. Ann Jones, in her excellent book “Kabul in Winter,” recounts the misery of the Kabul prostitutes who cater to foreign officials and contractors.

The brothels in Kabul are euphemistically referred to as “Chinese restaurants.”

They acquired this name because Chinese government operatives helped to create some of them, in the shadow of legitimate Chinese restaurants, as part of their intelligence-gathering network. Many of these non-Afghan prostitutes have been trafficked into the country. A June 23, 2008, report from a prominent UK feminist web site (theFword.org) entitled: Women trafficked to Afghanistan to meet demand from Westerners by Jess McCabe, details how Chinese women are tricked into moving to Afghanistan under the belief that they will be working in a legitimate restaurant.

In Kabul Cat Houses Are No Secret (September 17, 2009), Bill Roggio in longwarjournal.org reported that: A U.S. Embassy subcontractor named RA International was actually running one of the Kabul brothels.

Mr. Roggio discovered that RA was a subcontractor to the U.S. Embassy’s prime security contractor - ArmorGroup. Wayne Madsen, writing for Online Journal on September 15, 2009, reported that a senior RA official was actually living at one of the Chinese brothels, called the “Light House.” Mr. Madsen reported on objections lodged by the Afghan government about RA; objections which were ignored by the U.S. Embassy. Richard Lardner, reporting for the Huffington Post on November 10, 2009, recounted the testimony of James Gordon, former director of operations for ArmorGroup. Gordon stated that Congress had been misled about whether ArmorGroup employees frequented brothels known to house trafficked women. He detailed his briefings to State Department officials regarding security risks created by his company, but was ignored. In response to these events, there is silence and inaction from Hillary Clinton and her Embassy in Kabul. This silence and inaction are not limited to sex trafficking, but extends to other Western vices that have reappeared in Kabul, including alcohol abuse at the U.S. Embassy. To this reporter’s knowledge, no State Department officials have been disciplined for any of these matters.

The State Department is not alone in its tolerance regarding the victimization of Afghan women. The British newspaper The Sun ran a story on April 7, 2008 entitled: “NATO Men Romp in Afghan Brothels”

Sun Defense Editor Tom Newton Dunn detailed how NATO troops were observed drinking contraband alcohol and heading off to rooms with prostitutes. It quoted a NATO official as stating that one out of every five NATO civilians in Afghanistan frequent these brothels. The official feared that such conduct and the public reaction to it would eventually derail the NATO security mission. The report quoted Afghan Member of Parliament Shukria Barakzai as stating that if this conduct continues: “They will undermine their reason for being here.”

Secretary Clinton’s silence and the silence of her regional Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to the sexual abuse of women is not new.

As detailed in a chilling book: Rape Warfare - The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia by Beverly Allen, there were numerous sightings during the 1980’s of U.N. personnel and UNPROFOR troops at Serbian rape locations, including Sonja’s Kin Tiki restaurant/rape camp in Vogosca and the Park Hotel also in Vogosca.

“Visitors” to these locations allegedly included the U.N. Protection Force Commander in Sarajevo, Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie, along with senior military observer Richard Grey. Witnesses observed New Zealand, French, Ukrainian and African peacekeepers at these locations. These criminal acts have apparently not ceased. On May 6, 2004, the BBC headline was Kosovo UN Troops ‘fuel sex’ trade.

It recited a just-released report from Amnesty International which concluded that UN and NATO troops in Kosovo were helping to promote the forced sexual exploitation of women and of girls as young as 11 years old. The number of locations in Kosovo where such victimization of women and girls took place rose from 18 in 1999 to 200 in 2003. The report stated that the U.N. had quietly reassigned ten police officers, and NATO approximately twenty-seven soldiers, but apparently there were no prosecutions of these men. This was followed on October 19, 2005, by The New York Times headline:

“Report Finds U.N. Isn’t Moving to End Sex Abuse by Peacekeepers.”

The Report revealed that the United Nations remains unimpressed and unconcerned regarding the crimes of sexual assault and rape. Likewise, the UN’s war crimes tribunal at The Hague, for political reasons, declined to prosecute any of the victors for these offenses. Only the losers get prosecuted. First Lady (and now Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Administration’s Special Ambassador to Yugoslavia Richard Holbrooke were then, and remain today, conspicuously silent regarding what occurred to women in Bosnia and Kosovo, just as they remain so today about Afghanistan.

This silence and inaction is not limited to sex trafficking.

Secretary Clinton also remains unwilling to clamp down on alcohol abuse at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

What most readers don’t know is that American military facilities in Afghanistan are dry (no alcohol is permitted), but the U.S. Embassy is exempt from those prohibitions. Diplomats, who live in relative comfort in Kabul, are free to party while our troops fight and die. It is shameful. This author has been circulating on Capitol Hill an Amendment to the State Department’s FY2010 budget. This amendment would legislate that the U.S. Embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan comply with the same alcohol ban as American troops are subject to.

Where is the U.S. State Department in all of this? A press conference was held on September 11, 2009, in Washington, D.C., by Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley. He was asked about newly disclosed allegations that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was apprised in 2007 that one if its security contractors was involved in sex trafficking in Afghanistan and did nothing. Secretary Crowley refused to comment. The excuse is always that the matter is in litigation or the Inspector General is reviewing the matter. Such pretexts for silence create the appearance of guilt and project a negative image of the United States.

There is no substitute for honesty and transparency.

Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), sent a detailed report to Secretary Clinton on September 1, 2009, urging her to implement reforms within the State Department and to discipline Embassy officials who have proven an embarrassment to the nation. That appeal and many others continue to be ignored. Secretary Clinton pays lip service to women’s rights issues and never misses a photo opportunity to appear with a women’s group, but her inaction in these matters suggests a different agenda.

An interesting side note regarding alcohol abuse at the U.S. Embassy is that, pursuant to American law, alcohol abuse may be a basis for denying a foreigner a visa to visit the United States. The same U.S. Embassy, which contends that such conduct is not acceptable for visitors to America, seems to have no problem with its employees and contractors exhibiting the same conduct overseas. Its motto appears to be: “Do as I say and not as I do.”

One of the unpublicized side effects of any new 30,000 or 40,000 person surge in U.S. military personnel to Afghanistan is that they will be accompanied by a similar number of supporting civilians.

That is the new structure for the U.S. military as it has outsourced many of its key logistics functions. This surge in civilian contractors will only exacerbate the problems discussed so far in this article. This is not a new problem. In the February 26, 1944, dispatch of legendary Foreign Service Officer John S. Service, he detailed problems regarding the surge of U.S. troops into the Chengtu area of China. The dispatch discussed the poor opinions many area residents had of Americans due to off-base “rowdiness” by American Volunteer Group civilians. For Afghanistan, one solution is to explore ways to reduce the need for (and therefore the presence of) civilian contractors in Kabul and other major Afghan cities.

Secretary Clinton should propose that a joint UN/NATO task force be established in Kabul to explore ways to consolidate operations, facilities and aid projects so as to reduce the private contractor footprint in Afghanistan. It should promote the hiring of Afghans and Afghan companies and the buying of more goods domestically in Afghanistan.

Another solution is to begin a competent program of aid relief that does not place 80+% of the aid into the pockets of foreign contractors, but actually funnels the aid through Afghan ministries and to ordinary Afghans (see last month’s article on “American’s Phantom Aid to Afghanistan” and the string of investigative reports prior to it).

Secretary Clinton should take the lead by terminating the U.S. Embassy’s foreign security forces. ArmorGroup and RA and others contractors have been a constant source of negative press stories, just as Blackwater was. These contractors are supposed to work under the close supervision of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), but DS has proven time and again that it is not up to its oversight task. DS also gets low marks for its counter-intelligence operations as it permits its security contractors to frequent brothels run by Chinese intelligence operatives. The result of continuing DS lapses is a seemingly endless stream of embarrassing headlines such as:

“Scandalous US Kabul Embassy” (Sept. 4, 2009) IslamOnline.net

“Boozy Scandal at U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan” (Sept. 4, 2009) SF Chronicle

Similar negative press reports have plagued the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and they have now begun for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. In order to repair and restore America’s image and as a first step in trying to protect the women of Afghanistan, Secretary Clinton should fall back on a trusted and reliable method of protecting American diplomats and embassies: the U.S. Marines.

The U.S. Marines should immediately replace DS and its security contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, before the next scandal occurs.

Unless action is taken to curb these abuses, the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people may continue to move in the direction of the Taliban. In Afghanistan: Mirage of the Good War, appearing at PakPeace.net (July 19, 2009) Tariq Ali criticizes what he calls “the foreign mercenaries backing up the NATO forces.”

“Even sympathetic observers admit that their alcohol consumption and patronage of a growing number of brothels in Kabul is arousing public anger and resentment. Many who detest the Taliban are so angered by the failures of NATO and the behavior of its troops that they are pleased there is some opposition.”

America’s embassies are supposed to project a positive image of the American people. One of their purposes is to counter the propaganda of Usama bin Laden and others that America’s freedoms bring nothing but crime, abuse of women and moral decay. Instead of being part of the solution, the State Department is part of the problem. Secretary Clinton’s silence and her refusal to act to rein in the growing list of abuses are damaging the war effort.

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  • Another thing that does not surprise me at all is in this article. Number one: Secretary Clinton is the wife of the guy who was doing sex at his desk in the White House. Secretary Clinton is a mean woman. That is my opinion. A recent magazine cover in America portrays her accurately as such. Wasn’t I the one that American soldiers in 1978 in Isfahan, Iran took me to the brothel they had set up right across the street from the main mosque in Isfahan?? And what was in there???? Kidnapped white slave girls from Thailand and Viet Nam who followed me outside and told me that they were enslaved with no visa and that they came in on American Military flights as prisoners of sorts. They were very young and were being forced to entertain and do sex with big fat slob american men. They begged me to help them.

    The alcohol and drug abuse in Iran was so bad I could not believe it. British higher level employees could soak up more booze than I ever heard of. Even British women were prostituting themselves to get "PX": priviledges. PX is a store that sells american goods to soldiers. So they would do sex with the soldiers just to get a PX card. They tried to rope me into that as well. They got the head of the Vietnamese (an American) military police who had a huge piece of hash hish he brought from Viet Nam. He tried to buy me with that. I threw ice water in his face and kicked him out of my apartment that he tried to opportunely "pass out" in on booze. I was shocked by the huge alcohol problem. American women would reel around Tehran as drunk as skunks and scandalize themselves indecently in front of decent Iranians. Then they ask why Iranians don’t like them. Yes I have been looking for this article. I looked on youtube about prostitution in Afghanistan and saw a little few videos. I looked other places as well. The m an who writes these articles is very well informed. A very higher level thinker. I appreciate that as many articles on this war lead to nowhere and you feel nothing is ever really exposed or explained. I knew they would have lots of prostitutes becasue I know them and how they operate. I know them very well. Sorry for you guys. They are on your back like leeches or rodents or pigs now. You’ll have to do something. I would come work but I am sure they would not let me. I am too sympathetic to the the natives and women and children. They don’t like that. They like hard idiot people

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