Friday, August 19, 2016

Leave no contractor behind - Prepare an evacuation plan for Afghanistan now

The collapse and evacuation of Saigon left Americans behind, it left our allies and our employees to the enemy.  Many made their own escape by boat or helicopter, but the fact was it was a disaster for the US psyche and left a lasting impression of ineptitude and weakness.

When ISIS overran Mosul in 2012 and other areas of north, west and central Iraq, hundreds of American contractors were left to find their own way out or where left behind once the State Department evacuated its employees with security clearances.  This was not just a US phenomenon, several thousand other contractors from China, India and Turkey were captured by IS and if they were lucky, ransomed by their respective governments.

Similarly a few years ago when the US embassy in Yemen was evacuated it too failed to destroy classified information led to security breaches and embarrassing releases of information by the Iranians that ended up with control of the facility ; literally the gates were left open. Much of this information  was later released anonymously via WikiLeaks which panders to enemies of the US while is leader, Assange bides time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. In any other time his actions would be considered espionage as he leads a trail of human disaster like Manning behind. Is Assange dealing information for the Russians or more likely their third party surrogates to embarrass the US and Hillary specifically as we ease into one of the most painful US elections in living memory?

President Obama has been increasing US troop strength in Iraq with the hope of suppressing ISIS and retaking Mosul before his term expires. The military head count is limited by Congress.  Similarly in Afghanistan he has opted to continue to reduce the headcount of US military personnel while the Taliban grows stronger. Eventually there will be a tipping point, where our ability to hold at least key areas, bases and embassies will be offset by numerical superiority.  Observers of the Afghan situation realize that an evacuation may be a question of when and not if.

To address the headcount restrictions placed on them by Congress or the President, the military and the State Dept. have relied increasingly on contractors.  Now it is reported that the number of contractors is 3 times the number of US government personnel in Afghanistan.  Of those about 70% of non-US nationals but are working for US contractors and the US government in a business relationship.

The concern now is that US evacuation plans do not include the contractors and that they may be left behind in the chaos to fend for themselves as best they can.

It is hard to imagine the political fall out of a collapse of Kabul, for example, where US personnel were left behind to be held hostage by the Taliban and ransomed back to us or worse.  The fallout politically would be a combination of Saigon and Benghazi combined.

It is critically important as we reach a tipping point in Afghanistan that the US government begin making adequate evacuation plans for both its government personnel and its contractors. The implications of failure in this matter would be catastrophic to the psyche of the country and result in extreme and unpredictable reactions from the US citizens.

Some reference articles:

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