This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
- War deaths in Syria now top 100,000.
- The US plans to begin directly supplying arms to the opposition force within the month.
- Experts say that sarin gas use in Syria still cannot be genuinely proved, since the process can’t control for tampering.
- Fighting between rival armed militias in Libya’s capital have killed five and wounded nearly 100.
- Monday saw Israeli air strikes carried out against Gaza in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire.
- At least 16 Lebanese soldiers were killed in fighting with Sunni militants in Sidon.
- A series of bomb attacks in Iraq on Monday killed at least 42.
- A Taliban attack on Kabul has put peace talks on edge.
- The annual report (PDF) from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime shows Afghanistan remains the world leader in opium cultivation and production.
- Pakistan’s former leader Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial has been adjourned indefinitely and a four-member committee has been created to probe treason charges.
- A video of two Czech women captured in Balochistan a couple of months ago surfaced, along with demands by their unidentified captors, that neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui be released by the US. It has not been verified.
- Head of NGO For Human Rights, Lev Ponomaryov, was forcibly evicted from his offices along with staff and beaten by Russian law enforcement.
- China will send peacekeeping troops to Mali.
- HRW says that China has resettled 2 million Tibetans over the past seven years.
- Violence and rioting in the Western region of Xinjiang left 27 dead.
- In response to US threats to end trade benefits over Snowden, Ecuador waived the benefits and offered the US $23 million worth of human rights training.
- Protesters continued to take to the streets in Brazil, facing off against police.
- Dzokhar Tsarnaev has been formally charged with killing four people and using a weapon of mass destruction.
- Marine Gen. James Cartwright, formerly the vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is apparently the target of a DOJ leak investigation regarding information leaked about Stuxnet.
- A new Guardian scoop revealed that the Bush administration email record collection continued for two years under the Obama administration.
- The administration insists anyway, that Bush era data collection ended in 2011, but as The Guardian went on to report, massive metadata mining continues through the program EvilOlive (what?).
- Here’s a pdf of a 2009 draft report of the NSA inspector general regarding the surveillance program, thanks to The Guardian.
- Leaks also reveal massive online data collection by the British counterpart to the NSA, the GCHQ, of information obtained by tapping fibre-optics cables. The info is shared with the US.
- The Army is restricting access to The Guardian’s website in an Armywide filter.
- McClatchy on how memories of Stasi affect Germans’ views of US surveillance practices.
- Glenn Greenwald addresses attempts to smear his reputation and attack his work. David Carr and Jay Rosen both came to his aid earlier this week.
- Two law school professors say the NSA data collection programs “violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law.”
- The Snowden leaks have brought WikiLeaks back into the news.
- A CIA inspector general’s report (PDF) reveals there have been four CIA embeds with the NYPD since 9/11 and raises questions about the limitations they had, the assistance they offered, and the relationship between the two organizations.
- Former US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke rather astonishingly acknowledged to the Huffington Post that the circumstances of Michael Hastings’ crash were “consistent with a car cyber attack.” He was careful to say that he was not saying he thought there had been such an attack.
- The Daily Beast profiles the life and work of incoming deputy director of the CIA, Avril Haines.
- A video interview with journalist and Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill on national security oversight, whistleblowers and the effect of surveillance on journalists and journalism.
- A military court overturned a Marine’s conviction in the murder of a retired Iraqi policeman because Sgt. Hutchins was held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer.
- The Army plans to cut 12 combat brigades and reduce force size by 80,000.
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Photo: Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier stands guard at the presidential palace on June 25th following a Taliban attack. Shah Merai/AFP/Getty
The war on drugs is expanding: in Latin America, the US military is kicking up combat in the most expensive initiative in the region since the Cold War. Victor Silverman of Pomona College joins us to break it down.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, a new compound will house hundreds of US Special Operations forces. The facility known as Camp Integrity is run by the company Academi which was formerly known as Blackwater. The company which received heavy criticism for its role in an Iraqi massacre continues to get millions in no bid contracts. Michael O’Brien, author of “America’s Failure in Iraq,” gives us his take on the role of military contractors.
When former Vice President Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush he commissioned a study by Brown and Root Services, now known as KBR which is the subsidiary of the defense giant Halliburton. The study recommended that the Department of Defense should contract out logistical and other support services to defense contractors like Halliburton. This was the beginning of a long-term vision of privatizing many functions of the DOD.
When Cheney took office as Vice President his longtime ally Donald Rumsfeld set in motion Cheney’s vision for privatizing the Department of Defense. During the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars there were more defense contractors in those countries than there were US soldiers. The privatization strategy included the employment of private security firms; the US government was now paying mercenaries billions of dollars to provide security for diplomats, military bases, and supply routes.
With the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan winding down, mercenary firms are now finding a new role: fighting the war on drugs. It all began with Camp Integrity. The Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan was looking for a headquarters in Afghanistan, and as Danger Room reports, the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater provided the new home through a no-bid contract worth $22 million.
More than just a hosting Special Forces in Afghanistan, the company now known as Academi is apparently going to be playing a major role in the drug war in Afghanistan. The Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO) has also taken up residence at Camp Integrity. And the $22 million contract Aacdemi received is nothing compared to the money that the CNTPO is going to shell out fighting the drug war.
According to reporting by Danger Room, last year the CNTPO awarded $3 billion in contrasts and now the CNTPO is looking for a private security firm to “maintain a basic, operational support cell,” and this firm must be able to “provide a secure armory and weapons maintenance service, including the ability to check-in and check-out weapons and ammunition.”
The Department of Defense isn’t the only agency looking to privatize the drug war. The State Department, which has a long history of using firms like Aacdemi to provide security for diplomats, is also looking to outsource. According to reporting by Danger Room, the State Department will be soon soliciting bids for a private company to maintain its fleet of aircraft used in the drug war. The contract worth as much as $10 billion will be to provide “pilots and operational support for drug interdiction missions such as crop spraying, and the transport of personnel and cargo.”
The outsourcing of the drug war isn’t just relegated to Afghanistan. The State Department’s outsourcing includes operations in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and Guatemala. Before the CNTPO was looking to outsource the drug war in Afghanistan it was outsourcing the drug war in closer to home. As the BBC reported, the CNTPO has also been outsourcing the drug war in Latin America.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the so-called Global War on Terror created a huge market for mercenary firms to make billions over the last decade. However, with the wars coming to a close and the cuts to the defense budget effecting private security firms like other defense contractors, they will be looking for a way to replace that revenue. The war on drugs seems to have provided a very profitable opportunity. If America is willing to spend trillions of dollars on a war in which thousands of US servemembers died, imagine what we will spend when the casualty counts don’t include Americans.