Subcontractors employed by US companies in Afghanistan stranded in Dubai | Business and Economy News


Some of the foreign contractors who fueled the logistics of America’s long war in Afghanistan found themselves stranded in an endless layover in Dubai with no way to get home.

After nearly two decades, the rapid withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan turned the lives of thousands of private security contractors in some of the world’s poorest countries – not the mercenaries but the mercenaries who served the effort. American war. For years, they worked behind the scenes as cleaners, cooks, construction workers, waiters, and technicians on sprawling American bases.

During the rushed evacuation, many of these foreign workers found themselves stranded in Dubai hotel limbo as they attempted to return home to the Philippines and other countries that restricted international travel due to the pandemic.

As the United States pulls in its remaining troops and abandons its bases, experts say the chaotic departure of the Pentagon’s logistics army lays bare an uncomfortable truth about a privatized system long likely to be mismanaged – a system largely funded by US taxpayers but outside the jurisdiction of the United States. right.

“It’s the same situation that affects foreign entrepreneurs all over the world, people who have little understanding of where they are going and very uncertain relationships once they arrive determining their legal status and where they move,” Anthony Cordesman , a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the Associated Press news agency.

“The terms of contracts in wartime can really relieve the employer of a major responsibility … even the right of return can be uncertain.”

Stuck at Movenpick

Although it is not known exactly how many remained stranded abroad after the evacuation, an AP reporter saw at least a dozen Filipino contractors from the engineering and construction company Fluor stranded in the area. Movenpick hotel in Bur Dubai, an older part of the city-state along Dubai. Stream.

Hotel management declined to comment, saying they “do not have the authority to disclose the presence and information of hotel guests or details of hotel partners for confidentiality reasons.” .

U.S. Army Central Command declined to comment on private security contractors, referring all questions to their companies. The U.S. Army’s contracts office and the Philippine Consulate in Dubai did not respond to repeated requests for comment on stranded Filipino contractors.

At the beginning of June, 2,491 foreign contract workers remained on American bases across Afghanistan, against 6,399 in April, according to the latest figures from the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan.

With the United States set to officially end their military mission at the end of the month, most of these workers have since returned home on flights organized by their employers – the private military behemoths who have won logistics contracts. from the Pentagon during years of war in Afghanistan worth billions of dollars. .

However, other employees, first brought to Dubai on their way home after a sudden departure on June 15, were not so fortunate. The Philippines, along with Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, halted flights to the United Arab Emirates in mid-May over fears of the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus and have repeatedly renewed the travel ban.

So began a seemingly endless layover that some Filipino workers described to the PA as a time of relentless anxiety and boredom. The entrepreneurs spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the precariousness of their situation.

Lured to Afghanistan by the promise of stable employment and far higher wages than in the Philippines, several of the stranded Fluor contractors spent years working in construction, transporting equipment, processing visas and other military logistics.

Some worked at Bagram Air Base, the country’s largest military complex, and Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan. They had nothing to do with combat operations but nonetheless described rocket attacks and other war risks at the base.

Those who spoke to the AP said they knew many other entrepreneurs from the Philippines and other countries, including Nepal, stranded in Dubai, but could not provide more specific information.

With their cash flow dwindling during the two-month layover, most said they couldn’t afford anything but to wait. They spend their time watching TV and making video calls with their families in the Philippines from the hotel, where Fluor provides daily meals.

Texas-based construction giant Fluor, which was Afghanistan’s largest defense contractor, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from AP. The Defense Ministry has spent $ 3.8 billion on Fluor’s work in Afghanistan since 2015, according to federal records, most of it on logistics services.

With little public knowledge of the process of evacuating contractors from the war, it became increasingly clear that the Pentagon’s long-invisible foreign fleet could remain so.

“Everyone has focused so much on the American troops, but also on the Afghans, the interpreters and others” who could face revenge killings by a resurgent Taliban, said John Sifton, director of advocacy for Asia to Human Rights Watch.

“About stranded foreign workers, the Biden administration can say, well, their companies and governments should have moved heaven and earth to get them home.”

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