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Local guard force placed U.S. diplomats at risk… in Pakistan

Libya isn’t the only place where the State Department has used a contractor to hire local guards with questionable results. In Pakistan, the contractor in charge of embassy and consulate security left U.S. assets poorly guarded during a three-day strike last year, according to an internal State Department report. "The U.S. Mission Pakistan local guard ...

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Getty Images

Libya isn’t the only place where the State Department has used a contractor to hire local guards with questionable results. In Pakistan, the contractor in charge of embassy and consulate security left U.S. assets poorly guarded during a three-day strike last year, according to an internal State Department report.

"The U.S. Mission Pakistan local guard force provides security to protect Embassy Islamabad and Consulates General Lahore, Peshawar, and Karachi against security threats, including Al-Qaida, elements of the Taliban, and other militant groups. The local guard force is responsible for preventing unauthorized access to the facilities, deterring criminal attacks against employees and dependents, deterring terrorist acts against all U.S. assets, and preventing damage to U.S. Government property," a new report by the State Department Inspector General’s office issued today stated.

"OIG determined that the local guard force contractor, G4S Secure Solutions International Inc. (G4S), did not provide Department-approved replacement guards during a June 2011 labor strike in Islamabad that lasted more than 3 days. The strike posed a security risk because the contractor did not have a contingency plan to replace the guards on strike and therefore used unapproved guards to cover the guard posts."

The June 2011 strike lasted three days, during which the contractor replaced the striking guards with guards from its other projects, but those guards had not gone through the State Department approval process, which is in place to determine if people guarding U.S. government buildings and personnel are security risks.

The State Department did withhold money from the contractor over the issue and a new contract for the local guard force that began in July required the contractor to have a contingency plan in case of any future work stoppage. But as of now there is no reserve guard force to come to the rescue if there’s another strike, which is dangerous, the IG said.

"Although the contracting officer reduced the contractor’s payments by $80,600 for providing unapproved replacement guards during the June 2011 strike, security risks were increased because unapproved guards were on duty. Without a Department-approved reserve guard force, any future strikes or work stoppages could result in similar increased security risks," the report said.

Since 2006, there have been several terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Pakistan, the report noted.

"In March 2006, a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives, killing two people and wounding 50 people outside the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi. In August 2008, gunmen attacked the vehicle of a senior consular official in Peshawar. On April 5, 2010, terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar, killing several consulate guards and Pakistani security personnel. On May 20, 2011, terrorists attacked a consulate general vehicle in Peshawar, killing one person and injuring 12 people, including two consular employees," the report stated.

As of March 1, 2012, the contractor was providing about 2,480 guards for 900 guard posts: 1,325 guards at 480 guard posts in Islamabad, 425 guards at 155 guard posts in Karachi, 220 guards at 70 guard posts in Lahore, and 510 guards for 195 guard posts in Peshawar, according to the report.

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) responded to the IG’s warnings about the lack of a backup guard force but the State Department redacted the response. The IG said that the issue remains "unresolved." DS did promise to make sure all the local guards are enrolled in the retirement benefits program.

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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