The United States military is in the process of taking bids from private war contractors to secure and ship massive amounts of US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan, where it will then be distributed to various US Forward Operating Bases and other facilities. According to the contract solicitation (PDF), "There will be an average of 5000" import shipments "transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments." The solicitation states that, "This number may increase or decrease due to US military transportation requirements," adding, "The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan" within a 30-day period. Among the duties the contractor will perform is "intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan."
And while it seems the United States is trying to put a Pakistani or Afghan face on the work, the terms of the contract mandate that US personnel will be involved with inherently risky and potentially lethal operations. Among the firms listed by the Department of Defense as "interested vendors" are an Afghan company tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of Afghan defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani outfit with links to Blackwater.
Perhaps most striking about this US military contract solicitation is the admission by the military that contractors are being used for shipping and guarding military hardware as a runaround to the current official policy of the US and Pakistan governments that the US military does not conduct operations in Pakistan. "Due to current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active involvement with the contractor ‘outside the wire’ in Afghanistan, the contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information," according to the contract solicitation.
Many of the companies that have currently expressed interest in the contract are registered as Pakistani or Afghan businesses. It is well established that the US military depends on Pakistani and Afghan intermediaries to pay off the Taliban and other resistance groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to allow safe passage of US military hardware and other supplies, meaning the United States is effectively funding both sides of the war. As my colleague Aram Roston reported last year for The Nation, "US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents." Other US military sources have told me the number might be as high as 20 percent.
The current contracting arrangement for which the DoD is soliciting bids is essentially a more formalized way of doing the same thing. But while the contractor may place a Pakistani or Afghan stamp on the paper trail and allow the United States and Pakistan to deny that US personnel are involved, the security language of the solicitation actually mandates that US personnel work the operations.
According to the solicitation, the contractor must provide personnel "capable of facilitating, coordinating, obtaining, and reporting critical movement control data and information from the appropriate US government personnel at multiple locations." The personnel must "have the ability to obtain necessary identification…to gain access to base camps within Afghanistan without escort." Most importantly, "Personnel must have a valid US Secret Security Clearance." That level of clearance—"Secret"—cannot be issued to a foreign citizen, meaning that the contract actually necessitates US citizens working on the contract, presumably in Pakistan and Afghanistan.