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Attacks increasing on U.S. troops inside bases

Armed Services Committee hears that Afghanistan will take over all security contracting

Posted: February 3, 2012 11:39 a.m.
Updated: February 3, 2012 11:39 a.m.

The number of attacks in Afghanistan that kill American soldiers inside American-held bases is dramatically increasing, witnesses told members of the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., this week.

Such an attack claimed the life of Army Spc. Rudy A Acosta of Canyon Country, who was killed in March by an Afghan hired by a security firm to guard American soldiers.

An Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, called for by Acosta's father, heard testimony on Acosta's death and the practice of hiring Afghan nationals to provide security to U.S. forces.

Three-quarters of the more than 40 such incidents since 2007 have occurred in the past two years, witnesses told the committee. Most of the attackers acted out of personal motivation and were not directed by insurgents.

Regardless, the attacks have killed 70 coalition troops and wounded at least 110.

For the Acostas, the attack that changed their lives happened March 19, 2011.

On that day, an Afghan national named Shia Ahmed - recruited by Tundra Security 10 days earlier - opened fire on American troops as they began cleaning their weapons inside the Forward Operating Base Frontenac in Afghanistan.

Acosta and Cpl. Donald R. Mickler Jr., 29, of Ohio, were killed and four others wounded before the gunman was shot dead.

Brigadier General Kenneth R. Dahl, deputy commanding general for support, 10th Mountain Division, told the committee Wednesday he ordered an investigation into the attack.

"The investigation identified the assailant - a Tundra (Security) employee - as an insurgent who infiltrated the ranks of Tundra in order to execute an internal attack," he said.

Dahl said the attacks could have been prevented had military commanders taken greater care in sharing pertinent information.

"A key finding of the investigation was that the assailant had, indeed, been fired months prior for making unsubstantiated threats against U.S. soldiers at a (base) in another location," he said.

"Given that the threats were unsubstantiated, neither Tundra nor the command annotated those threats in an official record which, had they been recorded, may have prevented the assailant from being rehired."

Dahl called military guidelines on the people hired by private security firms "vague and confusing."

His recommendations relayed to the committee included:

- clarifying pertinent guidance

- creating a comprehensive background file for all local Afghan contract hires

- sharing the findings at all levels throughout the chain of command to increase awareness and prevent similar incidents in the future.

Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R.-Santa Clarita, who chairs the committee, opened the hearing by reading a letter written by Dante Acosta, father of Rudy Acosta.

Acosta wants the U.S. military to stop the practice of allowing private security firms to hire Afghan nationals to protect U.S. troops.

McKeon told the committee, however, that not only is the practice not going to stop, new Afghan laws now call for Afghan nationals to be the only ones hired for such security work.

"For different reasons, both President (George W.) Bush and President (Barack) Obama have chosen to limit the size of the U.S. force and to use private security contractors to enhance base security," he said.

"In contrast, it is Congress' role and the purpose of today's hearing to assess the advisability of these policies and whether the administration needs to change its approach.

"Complicating matters further, (Afghan) president (Hamid) Karzai has dictated that only Afghan nationals may be certified for employment as private security guards and has not permitted US citizen contractors.

"Karzai also ordered private security contractors to be disbanded," Mckeon said. "The Afghan Ministry of the Interior will assume full responsibility for providing security."

The newly created Afghan protection force goes into effect March 20 - a day after the first anniversary of Rudy Acosta's death.




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