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Shadow Army Now Outnumbers U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

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An unfortunate milestone in the war in Afghanistan was reported this week: private contractors have outnumbered U.S. troops in Afghanistan since March. Contractors now make up "57 percent of the Pentagon's Afghanistan personnel."

The highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States now exists in Afghanistan, according to a recently released report by a Congressional research group.

Of particular importance, the report concludes that "abuses and crimes committed by armed private security contractors and interrogators against local nationals may have undermined US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

That's not surprising. Every day another news link detailing some abuse, mistreatment, violence, neglect, or crime committed by private contractors enters my inbox. If it isn't the CIA that's in the news for something criminal, it's a private contractor instead.

This week Americans were treated to i mages of private security guards from ArmorGroup at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul "participating in naked pool parties and sex acts to gain promotions or assignment to preferable shifts."

ABC News reported that top supervisors at ArmorGroup (whose corporate parent is Wackenhut) were not only aware of the "deviant sexual acts." They helped to organize them.

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A segment on Rachel Maddow September 3rd explored the issue of abuses and misconduct committed by private contractors while also exploring how difficult it is to hold private contractors accountable.

MADDOW: We got 2007 investigation by the State Department. We've got a follow-up investigation by the Senate. We've got in the midst of all of this, a re-upping of the contracts for these guys.

What's your take on how the State Department now is handling this? Obviously, the track record was bad. The contract was re-upped this past summer. But what do you think about the way they've responded to you now and what they're doing in terms of taking remedial action?

BRIAN: Well, I was happy to just get a call about an hour or two ago from the State Department that actually, the number three at the embassy is asked to come over to be briefed by us at POGO next week. So, that's a good sign. What worries me, though, is I've had an e-mail that was circulated to all the guards that told them that while State Department investigators are there, interviewing all the people at the base, they are not aloud to speak to State Department investigator without a supervisor being there with them...

...MADDOW: Is it harder to pursue accountability generally when government functions are contracted out to private companies? Does that create another layer of insulation for people who act criminally or inappropriately or wastefully on the taxpayers' dime?

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BRIAN: I think there's no question that that's a huge issue. That's one the issues that we raised in our letter to Secretary Clinton was, is this the right place in this case to be having contractors? It really creates a difficult ability to hold them accountable. And that's true in any of these situations.

If reports of contractors peeing on people or taking shots of vodka out of ass cracks aren't bad enough, there is news that contractors may be using USAID money to pay the Taliban.

The Associated Press reports allegations that "USAID money for road and bridge construction in Afghanistan" has been "siphoned off by contractors to pay members of the Taliban not to attack specific projects and workers."

And then, there's the fact that the State Department is renewing Blackwater's contract. (Of course, Jeremy Scahill has been all over this.)

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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