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UPDATE: McKeon announces new bill to protect U.S. in Afghanistan

Adds details throughout

Posted: February 24, 2012 5:42 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2012 5:42 p.m.


Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is expected to present a bill to Congress next week seeking to stop private security firms from being contracted to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

In a draft of his proposed legislation obtained by The Signal, McKeon wants to prohibit the use of private security contractors and members of the Afghan Public Protection Force when it comes to providing security to American troops in Afghanistan.

McKeon said he expects to present the bill in the House of Representatives as early as next week.

“We’ve been focused on this issue and we’ve finally come up with a bill that we think addresses the issue,” McKeon said of the House Armed Services Committee, which he chairs.

“We ask the president to provide for the security of the troops,” he said, explaining his bill, “and if we cannot provide the security, to at least certify that those providing the security are as safe as if it were our own troops.”

Citing in his bill statistics prepared by the Department of Defense, McKeon notes there have been 42 “insider attacks” on coalition forces since 2007 by the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, or Afghan nationals hired by private security contractors to guard United States bases in Afghanistan.

One of those attacks claimed the life of U.S. Army Spc. Rudy A. Acosta of Canyon Country, who was shot March 19 in Afghanistan by a rogue security-firm recruit hired to protect American soldiers.

Acosta’s father, Dante, called on McKeon to stop the practice of Afghan nationals being hired to protect U.S. troops.
Subsequently, two congressional hearings of the House Armed Services Committee were held in Washington, D.C., regarding the practice, one in September and one earlier this month.

“We’re thrilled that Buck has seen the merits of our case,” Acosta said Friday after learning about the congressman’s proposed bill.

The number of attacks in Afghanistan that kill American soldiers inside American-held bases is dramatically increasing, witnesses told members of the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., Feb. 1.

Citing other Defense Department figures in his proposed bill, McKeon notes “insider attacks” increasing from two each in 2007 and 2008 to six in 2009, 13 in 2010 and 21 in 2011.

McKeon’s bill comes on the eve of major changes planned for security forces in Afghanistan.

Beginning next month, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai will prohibit the use of private security contractors in his country.

Instead, the Afghan Ministry of Interior will provide Afghan Public Protection Forces on a “reimbursable basis” to those desiring to contract for security.

In addition, the same Afghan ministry is expected to take responsibility for screening and vetting the Afghan nationals expected to make up the Afghan Public Protection Force.

McKeon’s bill calls for the president of the United States to ensure “as many appropriately trained members” of U.S. armed forces as needed perform security guard functions at bases in Afghanistan.

“This is a serious issue when you lose a young man or woman,” McKeon said in a sit-down interview with The Signal on Friday morning. “I’ve been to several funerals in the Santa Clarita Valley.”




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