McKeon bill would block contractors from securing US bases in Afghanistan

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McKeon has criticized the President Obama for his plan to withdraw the remaining 23,000 surge troops from Afghanistan this year, and the recent violence in the wake of Quran burnings at a U.S. airbase has renewed calls for reconsidering the drawdown.

“When the president gives timelines not based on conditions on the ground, that's the thing that puts us in jeopardy,” McKeon said on CNN Monday. “Instead of following timelines, we ought to make these changes based on conditions on the ground recommended by our leaders, General [John] Allen and those who are in charge over there.”

Beyond the drawdown schedule, McKeon’s bill examines a problem that has challenged International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops as Afghan soldiers have joined them for training and missions.

At a congressional hearing earlier this month, McKeon said there were 42 attacks by supposedly friendly Afghans against NATO forces since 2007. The issue has been exacerbated in the past week as four U.S. troops were killed, including two officers working inside the Afghan Interior Ministry.

The hearing examined the death of a constituent of McKeon’s, who was killed by an Afghan hired by a private contractor at a forward operating base.

For U.S. forces not to rely on contractor security, however, a significant boost in forces in Afghanistan would likely be required.

Gary Motsek, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense, said at the hearing that without contractors, U.S. forces would have to divert about 20,000 troops “from essential combat tasks to perform non-combat-related security functions.”

The contractor situation is further complicated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has said he will kick private security contractors out of Afghanistan and replace them with a new “Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).”

McKeon’s bill would also prevent the APPF from securing U.S. bases.