Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Afghanistan's Other War: Army vs. Police

| Mon Jul. 26, 2010 4:05 PM EDT

Reading through the trove of documents released by WikiLeaks Sunday, one could come away with the impression that members of Afghanistan's discipline-challenged security forces spend more time fighting each other than they do the Taliban. Among the 92,000 documents released by the group are dozens of reports detailing so-called "green-on-green" incidents, the military's term for friendly fire episodes involving Afghan personnel. Here the phrase "friendly fire" (what the US military dubs "blue-on-blue" when it involves American or coalition service members) is a bit misleading. While some reported green-on-greens involved accidental shootings—like when a trio of police officers were engaging in "horseplay" and shot an official from Afghanistan's National Security Directorate and another man—many are the result of score-settling and disputes, occasionally drug-fueled, that turn violent. Many of these internecine conflicts pit members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) against the Afghan National Police (ANP). If even remotely representative of the professionalism of the ANA and ANP, these incident reports make Hamid Karzai's goal of taking over primary control of security by 2014 seem like a pipe dream—and seriously call into question whether the Obama administration can deliver on its strategy. What follows are some lowlights (spelling mistakes, etc. in the originals): 

In this episode last November US military personnel—who surely have more important things to do—were forced step in as peacemakers when an altercation between the ANA and ANP turned violent:

ANA [Afghan National Army] and ANP [Afghan National Police] get into a verbal engagement, and the ANP shot the ANA in the Chest.

…ANA are trying to mass on the old bridge however we have elements on the ground… holding both ANP and ANA back.

But right now there is tension b/w ANA and ANP

ANA died of wounds.

You know what they say about drugs making you paranoid. Circa February 2008:

At 1747Z, TF Helmand reported 1x ANP was in the public shower smoking hash. 2 ANA walked in, the ANP felt threatened and a fire fight occurred. The ANP fled the scene and was later shot.

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How Contractors are Like Crack: Part 2 of WaPo's National Security Blockbuster

| Tue Jul. 20, 2010 6:46 AM EDT

The next installment in the Washington Post's blockbuster series dropped this morning, this one focused on the national security establishment's unprecedented reliance on contractors. Like Monday's installment, on the unwieldy sprawl of the nation's intelligence bureaucracy, today's article suggests the government has created a beast it cannot fully control. But the government has grown so dependent on contractors that cutting off or even drastically curbing their use is hardly an option. It's kinda like a drug addiction, where you use more and more until you find you can't stop. Indeed, the widespread use of contractors, the Post reports, begs the question of "whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities."

Here are some of the key revelations:

Under federal regulations, contractors are prohibited from performing what are known as inherently governmental functions (see Spencer Ackerman's Danger Room post for intel officials' totally lame pushback on this subject):

"But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counterterrorism agency…"

The main argument for relying on contractors is that though their rates are higher, they ultimately cost the government less than full-time employees with health insurance, 401Ks, and other benefits. That notion, the Post reports, has been thoroughly "repudiated" over the past 9 years:

Hiring contractors was supposed to save the government money. But that has not turned out to be the case. A 2008 study published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that contractors made up 29 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of their personnel budgets. Gates said that federal workers cost the government 25 percent less than contractors.

Congressional Bloopers: Sheila Jackson-Lee Edition

| Fri Jul. 16, 2010 10:28 AM EDT

Here's Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.) holding forth recently on how "today we have two Vietnams, side by side, north and south, exchanging and working." Wait, what?

Could she be talking about North and South Korea? No, not even remotely. Conservative blogs, meanwhile, are having a field day with this clip, as well as with comments she made at the NAACP's recent conference likening tea partiers to Klan members:

All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing, uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, I am part of the tea party. Don't you be fooled. Those who used to wear sheets are now being able to walk down the aisle and speak as a patriot because you will not speak loudly about the lack of integrity of this movement.

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