A “Mutiny” in Kabul: Guards Allege Security Problems Have Put Embassy at Risk
Guards said that they were directed to record 12-hour workdays, even though they actually worked for 14 hours or more per day. They said that, after working a six-day week, they have often worked a seventh day without pay. In comparison, for Marine security guards, a State Department manual posted on the department’s Web site contemplates “an individual guard workload factor of 36 to 42 hours per week.”
The State Department told POGO that no Aegis guard is scheduled to work more than 12 hours per shift. However, during the initial transition from AGNA to Aegis, the department said, “some contract personnel were required to work additional days, partly due to the need for intensive in-service training.”
“Through Government oversight, contract adjustments, and Aegis’ adherence to contract requirements, the number of hours and days the guards worked were limited to contract requirements, and the Department maintained its primary objective of ensuring the safety and security of the Embassy,” the department said.
Several members of the protective force also said they and other guards were rarely if ever given an opportunity to go to the firing range to “qualify” in their use of weapons — in other words, demonstrate an ability to hit targets. In addition, they said they were often prevented from “zeroing” — or properly sighting — guns and optical scopes. One alleged that even “sharpshooters on the embassy roof did not have zeroed weapons.”
“Without a zeroed weapon, I can’t defend myself or the embassy,” said a former guard.
According to one guard who left last summer, some of his colleagues had “never fired their own weapons.”
Others said they were alarmed by a failure to properly inspect vehicles for explosives as they entered the embassy compound. “The whole bomb detection operation at the embassy is disorganized and needs to be looked at to prevent a major incident,” said a veteran dog handler who left Kabul in August. “This is a Pandora’s box. The embassy is a target where they could have another Benghazi, or worse.”
The State Department said all canine alerts are “backed-up by technical means” to determine what steps should be taken.
The department acknowledged that the number of “designated defensive marksmen” –sharpshooters — declined at one point, adding that it “utilized alternate DDM assets to augment security.”
As for time on the firing range, the department said that the availability of ranges in Kabul “is dependent on the security situation, and Aegis had to adjust scheduled re-qualifications.” But the department denied that any Aegis personnel have been prevented from re-qualifying “on their assigned weapons systems.”
“All weapon systems are calibrated before being put into service,” the department said.
Guards said they voiced concerns about embassy security in regular daily meetings with State Department officials and Aegis supervisors.