Posts Tagged Afghanistan

Publications: DoD Contractor And Troop Levels In Iraq And Afghanistan 2007-2016

Another fantastic resource for those that are keeping track. Over the years, I have tracked these statistics and it is always interesting to see the trends or actual hard facts about the use of contractors by the US in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Mind you, this is only for DoD related contractor personnel.

On a side note, I personally think that this reporting activity should be done based on a legal requirement, separate from the budget. That way, we can get a true picture of how many contractors are actually being used out there. It would be nice to see DoS report as well, and do something similar to what DoD is doing with these. –Matt


Report PDF here.



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Legal News: Robert Langdon Is Pardoned!

When I heard the news about Robert Langdon being pardoned and released, I was floored. I originally wrote about Robert back when he was imprisoned, and I was trying to get some attention on his case. I mean this guy was sentenced to death at one point, and it is truly remarkable that not only has he survived that system but has been pardoned and released. What a horrible ordeal and I am just glad that he is home with his family.

I also wanted to highlight the outstanding work that Kimberley Motley and Stephen Kenny (the family lawyer) have put into this case. Kimberley is actually licensed to practice law in Afghanistan and has been fighting that pathetic legal system for quite awhile to free contractors that have been wrongly imprisoned. (Bill Shaw and Philip Young are two such examples) I have written about her good work in the past and I think one day, we will see a movie made about her. Truly a legal rock star.

As to Robert Langdon’s story, probably what jumped out at me was the hardships and survival strategies he had to employ as a prisoner at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Here is a quote from one of the stories below.

In prison, Mr Langdon was under constant threat of violence and was regularly attacked. During his final months in jail, he used a padlock to lock himself in a stinking cell. He had a smuggled mobile phone and a knife he had fashioned from a piece of steel.

I don’t know if he had SERE training in the military, but it sounds like if he had, it would have been very helpful in surviving this prison. Especially being the only expat and especially when some of his cellmates were Al Qaeda and Taliban. Amazing that he survived. –Matt


Robert Langdon Free

Lawyer Kimberly Motley signs release papers for Robert Langdon, who spent more than seven years in Kabul’s maximum-security prison. Picture: Jessica Donati, The Wall Street Journal


Robert Langdon: Last Western prisoner held in Afghanistan pardoned, flown home to Australia
By Michael Edwards
9 Aug 2016
A former Australian soldier has been released from an Afghan jail after serving seven years for murder.
Robert Langdon initially received a death sentence in 2009 but always maintained his innocence, claiming he killed in self-defence.
His family, after spending years campaigning for his freedom, received the news this week that a presidential pardon had been granted and he was on his way home.
“He certainly has been released and the family, of course, are very very pleased about that,” family lawyer Stephen Kenny said.
Mr Langdon was initially convicted for shooting Afghan colleague Karimullah, when a dispute arose while they were escorting a convoy to an American military base in mid-2009.
He was found guilty of killing the man, and then trying to blame the murder on a Taliban ambush.
The Australian was also accused of setting fire to the dead man’s body and trying to flee the country.
Mr Langdon was sentenced to death but later had his sentence reduced to a 20-year jail term after his family reportedly paid the family of the dead man a substantial sum of money in compensation.

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Finance: 2014 Taxes For Contractors, By CPA Luke Fairfield

It is that time again and Luke Fairfield has put out his yearly newsletter for contractors. This stuff is extremely informative and Luke specializes in all the particulars unique to our industry. For your convenience I will also put this in the Taxes For Contractors page if you need to find it quickly. Check it out. –matt



For all you ex-pats, foreign contractors and overseas residents out there I hope this letter finds you well. In an attempt to keep you current with your tax filings I am sending out this letter as a year-end reminder that 2014 is almost over. As always feel free to pass this email on to anyone in your situation who could use the help or anyone that I missed on this email. As always, I will do my best to minimize your tax bill and provide relevant advice for your situation.

Important Updates for 2014:
1) Please visit our website at The website includes a learning center with answers to frequently asked questions. We hope you find it to be an excellent resource.
2) Our in house attorney Zac Silides can assist with the preparation, revision or updating of a trust or will and can also assist with other business related legal needs such as the creation of new business entities. Fees for these services are very reasonable based on a comparison to other options.
3) Information update related to IRS audits of the foreign income exclusion:
a. It is critically important that you retain copies of your Diplomatic passport and regular passport, overseas orders, LOAs, overseas expense receipts, VISAs and anything else that can prove you were overseas in a combat zone. Keep these for at least 5 years. Do not turn in your passports without making a scanned, color copy of them.
b. Should they choose to do so under audit, the IRS now has the ability to obtain an entry report from CBP and Homeland Security to verify your time in the US.
c. If you are claiming the exclusion under the physical presence test (330 day rule), some IRS offices are now requiring that your “abode” be outside the US to qualify. Unfortunately this term is not defined in the tax code and the IRS is using some very old court case ruling to say that it is where you maintain your social and economic ties. For those of you with family in the US, this can raise an issue.
d. In short, the foreign income exclusion has become a riskier claim as the IRS does not issue specific enough guidelines on many foreign income exclusion issues. We do not know with any degree of certainty how any audit will conclude as results vary widely by auditor.
4) FATCA. The IRS has enacted many regulations regarding foreign bank accounts and foreign financial instruments. If you have a foreign bank account with a value in excess of $10k or foreign financial holdings in excess of $50k, you may have a filing requirement to be compliant and avoid possible penalties.
5) Afghanistan Tax.
a. In 2014 Aegis was withholding a tax on income earned in Afghanistan by foreign personnel. Several other companies withhold Afghanistan tax on the employee’s behalf as well. If you are aware of foreign tax being withheld, please inform us of this fact so we can ensure you get proper credit.
b. Triple Canopy and Global withhold Iraq tax on income earned in Iraq.
c. Tax paid to a foreign country can be claimed as a credit on your US tax return (Form 1116).
d. The credit can be combined with the foreign income exclusion if you qualify but the foreign tax credit is partially reduced when both are used, making this a complex calculation.
6) Indonesian Tax. Triple Canopy employees in Indonesia present for more than 183 days have a whole new set of issues to be aware of.
a. You are currently having something called “Hypo” or hypothetical tax withheld from your paycheck. This amount will cover your US and Indonesian tax obligation in most cases.
b. TC has provided a description of how your tax obligation to each country will be calculated and handled but it is not easy reading and is complex as it varies by situation.
c. The CPA firm KPMG has been retained to prepare both your Indonesian and US returns. If you plan to use this service, I am happy to look over your returns before they are filed to make sure you received all the benefits available to you. KPMG is a huge worldwide firm who may not be overly familiar with the contract security work profession. Secondly, they will not be as responsive to each of you and your individual questions which concerns me as I have always made a point of getting each of you the answers needed immediately.

Based on the most common questions I was asked last year, let me briefly cover the points most relevant to your situation. The following is a rundown of how your tax situation differs from someone working in the states.

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Industry Talk: FBO–RFI For 500-600 Armed Guards For Kandahar Airfield

By the end of the year US troop levels in Afghanistan will fall to 9,800, with another 3,000 – 5,000 NATO troops sticking around as well through the end of 2016. And while those remaining forces will be focused solely on training and advising the Afghan Army, Air Force, police and border patrol mostly at the leader and Ministerial level in Kabul and a few other sites, jobs like security for the major bases will have to be outsourced to private companies.-Paul Macleary of the Intercepts blog.

This just came out and it is hot off the press. A big hat tip to the blog Intercepts over at Defense News for finding this one. So let’s dig into the particulars of this FBO RFI requiring between 500 and 600 folks to guard the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

The first thing that came to mind is the whole 45-60 day mobilization period? That is not a lot of time to recruit, train, and spin up such a sizable force. And if you force a company to adhere to such a thing, then they will get sloppy and they will allow bad seeds to get into the mix, just because of the sheer volume of guys they have to hire for this. Anything is possible, but the more you compress the time for this, the more the company will be rushed and will be sloppy with vetting and recruiting. The contract should emphasize the importance of spinning up a quality guard force, and the appropriate time to do so.

Also, I imagine that the standing force requirements are probably a little under half of this number, meaning maybe 200 to 300 guys actually on site protecting the facility (see the photo below)? So these guys that are standing up this contract better have some clue as to how static security works on this base and the leaders of this contract better know how to integrate well with the base QRF elements and the base defense plan. I highly recommend whatever company that stands this up, to study the Camp Bastion attack reports written by the Marines, so that they can get an idea of what their guard force needs to think about in Afghanistan. All actions by this guard force, should be focused on unity of command and unity of effort with BDOC or the military command and QRF of the base.

Another point. Base defenses these days have heavy weapons. If the Kandahar Airfield has posts with heavy weapons, and these guards will be manning those weapons, then training requirements should be specified in the contract. I would absolutely insist on some kind of deal where contractors are able to get training in a controlled environment, and then continue that training on these weapon systems while in Afghanistan. Meaning allow them to shoot the weapons, work the ranges with those weapons, and train on the TTP’s with those weapons. The base defense is highly dependent on that guard force to do it’s job. That would mean structure shifts to be smaller, so that there is more time for training. A contract could stipulate 8 hour shifts at the max, which would then give the company time to train while out in the field. The concept of 12 hour shifts does not help at all for training.

Like wise, if posts have special equipment like thermal imagers or military radios, these guards absolutely need to be spun up on this stuff. They should also be versed in a sound action plan for when the base gets attacked, and the contract should require that they do drills and maintain proficiency. With an 8 hour shift scheme, the companies would have plenty of time to do these drills and training. Like I mentioned before, the Camp Bastion attack is an excellent example of stuff a guard force needs to think about and work on.

Final point would be communications. The guard forces, be it military or contractor, need to be talking to one another and interacting. They need integrated communications, and this relationship should be geared towards creating unity of effort and unity of command. The BDOC should absolutely insist on this, and whomever is tasked with spinning up this contract for the Army, should think long and hard about how to structure the contract to meet those ends.

As for the pay and benefits, all I can say there is that if you ‘pay peanuts, you will get monkeys’. I have seen multiple complaints from contractors on how the Camp Leatherneck or Camp Dwyer contracts have materialized. If these contracts are poorly structured, poorly managed, and not given the time to properly set up, then of course things will get screwed up. And if the contract is paying an unreasonably low salary, then the guard force you hire will not have any respect for the job. They will be miserable, and this attitude will permeate throughout the contract. Guys will also jump contract at the first opportunity of a better gig. My advice is to pay a living salary that is respectable in this industry, and structure the leave and shift scheduling that will keep guys around, and not scare them away.

That last part is key. If companies are getting paid for training folks, and are not penalized for pushing contractors out with horrible policies and poor management, then what pops up is a revolving door training scam. The companies will push contractors to the edge with dumb policies so that folks eventually just leave, and then those same companies can train more people and charge the government more money for that. So my advice to the government is to incentivize the company they work with, to keep guys hanging around. The contract should use longevity bonuses, if a contractor stays an ‘x’ amount of days. The contract should also protect the salary of those contractors, so the company can’t play games with the salary. The contract should require paying a higher salary to shift leaders or other small unit leaders, to attract those who would want to do that kind of work. Reward companies for treating their people with respect and setting up excellent systems. Penalize companies that create training schemes, where they push out contractors so they can train more and grow their training business back home. And make damn sure your contracting officer that is assigned to watch this contract, knows what they are doing and actually cares what the company is doing in the field. You need to watch every step of the way, and have plenty of tools to keep that company in check so it does exactly what you want it to do.

My personal preference for a contract, is for the government to stipulate that companies form teams or platoons, where guys are assigned a unit. That way you can actually build some kind of unit cohesion within the contract. True leaders will rise to the top, because they have been forged in that furnace of a team. The current contracts on various bases, where guys are not assigned any team and are just thrown into the mix every time they come back from leave, is idiotic. It doesn’t build unit cohesion, or mutual trust, and folks are constantly having to adapt to a new group of people. It is better to build that trust between individuals through the mechanism of a team or platoon or squad or detail formations, as opposed to constantly breaking up that mutual trust that forms within a unit in a war zone. Teams are also important for mission command to be successful, and if the military is truly focused on implementing mission command within it’s operations, then they should practice what they preach with the formation of contracts that help support that type of structure and culture.

Something to think about for the companies and contracting officers that are reading this. All of this stuff can be spelled out in a contract and implemented by a company. There are other checks and balances that I am missing in this post that I could spend days talking about, but the big one to remember is that a contract should help in the creation of an environment and culture where folks are successful because of the system or contract, and not in spite of it. –Matt


Kandahar Airfield is a massive site, and you can see why it would require such a sizable guard force.


This Request for Information (RFI) is a market research survey to determine the availability and adequacy of potential sources prior to determining an acquisition and contract strategy to procure Private Security Company (PSC) services in support of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (US FOR-A) Garrison Command, and tenant organizations at Kandahar Airfield (KAF), Afghanistan. Only  expatriates  from  the  FVEY  (Five  Eyes)   International  Intelligence  Sharing Network Nations (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) will be permitted to perform work as permanent or temporary residents of Kandahar Airfield under any future contract – no exceptions.  There is a requirement for U.S. Secret level security clearances for supervisory and operations personnel.

This RFI does not constitute a solicitation (Request for Proposal or Request f or Quotation) or a promise to issue a solicitation in the future.   As stipulated in FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not considered offers, shall not be used as a proposal, and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract.    This RFI does not commit the Government to contract for any services whatsoever.   We are not seeking proposals at this time.  Responders are advised that the Government will not pay for any information or administrative costs incurred in response to this RFI.

The information received will be utilized by RCC-South in developing an acquisition strategy and Purchase Description and Specification.   The information in this notice is based on current information available to date.   This information is subject to change and is not binding to the Government.    Responses to this RFI may or may not be returned.    Not responding to this RFI does not preclude participation in any future solicitations, if one is issued.

Any resulting procurement action will be the subject of a separate, future announcement. The proposed acquisition is for services for which the Government intends to solicit and award in conjunction with policies procedures from FAR Part 15, Contracting by Negotiation.

The proposed acquisition is expected to be a firm fixed price contract for a ten (10) month base period, which includes a sixty (45-60) day mobilization period (estimated), and no option periods.   The requirement calls for an approximate of 500-600 guards, armorers, and management  personnel;  no  less  than  30%  of  which  must  be  FVEY  Expatriates,  with  the remaining 70% from an allowable ISAF Troop Contributing Nation:

The following information is provided to assist with developing your response:

1.  The government will provide all lodging and office space to meet this requirement. Contractors may have access to MILAIR, DFACs, PX, and MWR.  A contractor man- camp is not required.

2. The contractor shall provide all vehicles, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, optics, and other equipment necessary to perform the PSC mission.  There will be some government furnished equipment, but this is not relevant to the mobilization questions.

3.   The service is to secure the entirety of Kandahar Airfield (man towers), man/operate ECPs, and conduct roving patrols 24/7 for the specified period of performance.

Interested parties shall submit a response that answers the following questions:

1.  Can you mobilize the required number of personnel, complete with medical screening, vetting and arming authorizations processed, within 45 days of contract award?

2.  If not, what is the maximum number of personnel feasible to mobilize within 45 days of contract award?

3.  Can you mobilize the required number of personnel, complete with medical screening, vetting and arming authorizations processed, within 60 days of contract award?

4.  If not, what is the maximum number of personnel feasible to mobilize within 60 days of contract award?

5.  What is the minimum timeframe feasible for full mobilization of a guard force of approximately 500-600 personnel?

6.  If a phased approach is used for mobilization, please describe the number of personnel and timelines you could reasonably expect to accomplish full operating capability?

7.  What are some of the barriers you anticipate could impact expedited mobilization?

You have the option to present evidence that you are capable of providing the services required and as such your response may contain any information that you feel is relevant.  Please provide an electronic copy of your submitted information to the point of contact NO LATER THAN 13 October 2014 by 1800 hours EST.

FBO RFI here.

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Medical: New Research Links Dust From Iraq’s Camp Victory To Ill Soldiers

“We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them,” said Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies. “It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory” in Iraq.

I wanted to get this information out there for everyone that has served in Iraq. Although I am not sure if the VA will test non-veterans, I would give it a try anyways. At least file a DBA if you have lung issues that you think came from your time in Iraq or even Afghanistan. If the VA is truly interested in finding trends and sources of this illness, it would be advisable for them to include the thousands of contractors who deployed in Iraq during those years. Either way, get yourself checked if think you need it.

Also, for DBA sake they should be testing contractors. The reason for that is they can plan for the coming claims, if it is found out that contractors are reporting lung illnesses. If there is an illness associated with serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, then contractors should absolutely get the same attention in these studies and treatment.

If you have a lung illness and think it was from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, by all means make a comment below so others can read it. It mentioned that the metal dust found in the soldier’s lungs matched the same dust found at Camp Victory. There were also multiple camps in Iraq and Afghanistan that were burning trash daily. Balad airbase in Iraq burned 240 tons of trash a day!

With that said, this research and reporting reminds me of the Gulf War Illness studies back when I was in the service. That research is still ongoing and they are still trying to determine what caused Gulf War Illness. The article below also lists a registry you can sign up with if you served in the First Gulf War or in the most recent wars in Iraq. Get the world out guys and gals and pass this one around. –Matt

Study on Iraq dust here.

Register with the VA for Gulf War Registry Health Exam here.

Veterans who served in the Gulf during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn are eligible for the Gulf War Registry exam. You do not need to be enrolled in VA health care to take part.

Register with the VA for Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry here.

* Veterans who are eligible for the Gulf War Registry may also join the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which includes additional data related to airborne hazards.


Burn pit in Balad, Iraq.

New research links Iraq dust to ill soldiers
By Kelly Kennedy
June 2, 2014
Titanium and other metals found in dust at a base in Iraq have been linked to the dust found in six sick soldiers’ lungs, according to a study set to be released Monday.
“We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them,” said Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies. “It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory” in Iraq.
The dust is different from dust found elsewhere in that human lungs are unable to dispel it through natural immune-system processes. The Iraq dust comes attached to iron and copper, and it forms polarizable crystals in the lungs, Szema said. The particles — each bit 1/30th the size of a human hair — have sharp edges.
“They’ve inhaled metal,” Szema said. “It’s not a little; it’s a lot.”
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Publications: Private Military Contractor International

This is a digital publication, and I was not able to get an embed code for it so you can read it here. If you want to read it, just click on the links below and then expand the magazine so you can read it online.

What is cool about this mag is that it is going over some old school stories that happened back in the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, I totally forgot the story about Wolf Weiss. Anyway,  check it out and I have no idea if they will continue to publish this digital magazine or if they are planning to make hard copies and sell on the news stands. –Matt

Edit: Also, it looks like PMCI is looking for writers. h/t Soldier Systems.


Private Military Contractor International-April 2014
Published on 9 March 2014
Issue description:
Private Military Contractor International is a digital magazine specifically for PMC Operatives and companies involved in the Private Military and Security sectors. Written by individuals with many years of experience in their particular field, each issue will contain a mix of product reviews, news and general interest features, as well as social and lifestyle articles. The Pre-Launch sample is a small representative example which provides a small snapshot of what future editions will contain.
Magazine description:
Private Military Contractor International is a digital magazine specifically for PMC Operatives and companies involved in the Private Military and Security sectors. Written by individuals with many years of experience in their particular field, each issue will contain a mix of product reviews, news and general interest features, as well as social and lifestyle articles.

Find publication on Joomag here.

Find on itunes here.

PDF of publication here.

Facebook for PMCI here.


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