Politics

U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan Fires Lewd Guards

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan announced Friday it has fired eight guards involved in a lewd conduct scandal. Another two contractors have resigned.

The management team of the private contractor, ArmorGroup North America, is also "being replaced immediately," the embassy said in a statement.

Investigators from the State Department's inspector general office arrived in Kabul on Friday to launch a probe into ArmorGroup North America. The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan said its security office was continuing interviews with the remaining guards.

"We will continue to take every possible step to ensure the safety and security of U.S. Embassy personnel, while respecting the values of all Afghans, Americans and contract employees and visitors from other countries," the embassy said in a statement.

"In addition, the embassy takes this opportunity to urge all employees of all contractors working for the U.S. Government in Afghanistan to report any employment issues to the hotline of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction."

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The statement said the guards who were dismissed and resigned all left the country Friday. 

The firings come after a report released earlier this week by the Project on Government Oversight said supervisors at the embassy were creating "a climate of fear and coercion" in forcing guards to participate in the activities, which included nudity, violence and alcohol. Those who didn't participate faced ridicule, humiliation and even dismissal.

POGO described the lurid photos and personal accounts as a "Lord of the Flies environment." 

"One email from a current guard describes scenes in which guards and supervisors are 'peeing on people, eating potato chips out of (buttock) cracks, vodka shots out of (buttock) cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drnken (sic) brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity,'" the report says. "Photograph after photograph shows guards -- including supervisors -- at parties in various stages of nudity, sometimes fondling each other. These parties take place just a few yards from the housing of other supervisors."

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was still waiting on the facts of a report released earlier in the week by the Project on Government Oversight, but if the homoerotic horseplay and lewd hazing were true, it was "offensive" and "inexcusable." 

"Those activities are not just offensive to Afghans and Muslims. They're offensive to us and inexcusable," Gates said.

In its report, POGO said ArmorGroup management and the State Department have been aware of the antics but have failed to take necessary action.  

ArmorGroup's contract with the State Department, which provides the embassy personnel, was worth $189 million over five years, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday.

"In March 2007, AGNA was awarded for a base year plus four option years. It was awarded based on lowest price, technically acceptable as required by law for local guard contracts. We are currently operating in option year two," he said.

Click here to see the pictures. (Warning: extremely graphic)