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Contractors who powered US war in Afghanistan stuck in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Some of the foreign contractors who powered the logistics of America’s “forever war” in Afghanistan now find themselves stranded on an unending layover in Dubai without a way to get home.

After nearly two decades, the rapid U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has upended the lives of thousands of private security contractors from some of the world’s poorest countries — not the hired guns but the hired hands who serviced the American war effort. For years, they toiled in the shadows as cleaners, cooks, construction workers, servers and technicians on sprawling American bases.

In the rushed evacuation, scores of these foreign workers trying to get home to the Philippines and other countries that restricted international travel because of the pandemic have become stuck in limbo at hotels across Dubai.

As the U.S. brings home 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 susceptible to mismanagement — one largely funded by American taxpayers but outside the purview of American law.

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

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

While it’s unclear just how many remain stuck abroad after the evacuation, an Associated Press journalist saw at least a dozen Filipino contractors for engineering and construction company Fluor stranded at the Movenpick hotel in Bur Dubai, an older neighborhood of the city-state along the Dubai Creek.

The hotel management declined to comment, saying it “has no authority to disclose presence and information of any hotel guests nor hotel corporate partners details due to privacy reasons.”

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

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

With the U.S. set to formally end its military mission at the month’s end, most of these workers have since made it home on flights arranged by their employers — the private military behemoths that over years of war won Pentagon logistics contracts in Afghanistan worth billions of dollars.

But other employees, brought first to Dubai on their way home after an abrupt departure on June 15, weren’t so lucky. The Philippines, along with Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, halted flights to the United Arab Emirates in mid-May over fears of the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus and repeatedly renewed the travel ban.

Thus began a seemingly interminable layover that some Filipino workers described to the AP as one of anxiety and unrelenting boredom. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the precariousness of their situation.

Drawn to Afghanistan by the promise of steady employment and wages far higher than in the Philippines, several of the stranded Fluor contractors spent years working in construction, equipment transport, visa processing and other military logistics. Some worked at Bagram Air Base, the largest military compound in the country, and at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan. They had nothing to do with combat operations but described nonetheless facing rocket attacks and other risks of war on base.

Those who spoke to the AP said they knew of scores more contractors from the Philippines and other countries including Nepal stuck in Dubai, but couldn’t provide more specific information.

With their cash dwindling over the two-month layover, most said they couldn’t afford to do anything but wait. They while away their time watching TV and video-calling with family in the Philippines from the hotel, where Fluor provides daily meals.

Construction giant Fluor, the Irving, Texas-based firm that was the biggest defense contractor in Afghanistan, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from the AP. The Defense Department has spent $3.8 billion for Fluor’s work in Afghanistan since 2015, federal records show, most of it for logistics services.

With little publicly known about the evacuation process for the war’s contractors, it has become increasingly apparent that the Pentagon’s long-invisible foreign fleet may remain so.

“Everyone has been so focused on the U.S. troops, and also the Afghans, interpreters and others” who could face revenge killings by a resurgent Taliban, said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “About the stranded foreign workers, the Biden administration can say, well, their companies and their governments should have moved heaven and earth to get them home.”

___

Follow Isabel DeBre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/isabeldebre.





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Every Day, Biden Smells Like More of a Loser

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Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty

With a hint of confusion in his eyes and a whiff of failure in the air around him, Joe Biden is watching his approval ratings continue to plummet to the point where just 42 percent of Americans approve of his job performance.

Which makes sense, since at least so far Biden really doesn’t seem very good at this whole being president thing despite dreaming of and preparing for it for decades. With his staff trying to hide him from the press, and his penchant for saying confusing things, Biden isn’t rhetorically equipped to talk himself out of this mess. He was elected on a simple mandate to not be Trump, but after promising not to do Trump things, doing his own thing has proven more difficult.

To some degree, he put himself in this corner. By governing as he campaigned (as a competent centrist), Biden might have locked in a governing majority of alienated center-right Americans along with his extant Democratic coalition. However, Biden chose to abandon efforts to transcend the current political paradigm, choosing instead to appease his base. Talk about a tragic plot twist.

His deference to progressives was foreshadowed early on: first when he flip-flopped on taxpayer funding of abortion during the campaign, and then with the partisan passage of his COVID-relief bill in February. But real trouble arrived this summer, when he prematurely declared “independence” from the virus (followed by mixed messaging over boosters), and his Afghanistan withdrawal went dangerously sideways. Then it became clear that allowing progressives to hold his bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage would result in more than just a temporary delay.

One could argue that Biden’s decision to pander to the leftward flank of the Democratic Party caused or exacerbated the various crises he now confronts—ranging from the border crisis (his “compassionate” policies and rhetoric served as a magnet) to violent crime (it’s hard to blame Biden for this, though his party’s “defund the police” rhetoric didn’t help) to inflation, which is now tied with COVID as Americans’ biggest concern (Biden ignored Larry Summers’ warnings about overheating the economy). The current stalemate over his legislative agenda is the clearest example of this deference to progressives. And since his stalled legislative agenda feels especially like a self-inflicted wound, it’s worth spending a little additional time here.

This One Basic Mistake Is Blowing Up Biden’s Presidency

Had Biden aggressively moved to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he would likely have garnered dozens of Republican votes, and progressives would have likely either caved to his will or been shown to be impotent. This is my counterfactual analysis, at least.

Instead, though, Biden let progressives press him into (sort of) linking passage of the bipartisan bill with a $3.5 trillion social welfare reconciliation package. By trying to have it all, there’s now a chance that he could get neither.

Why would an experienced former senator and vice president—who spent his career working across the aisle—make this mistake? Here’s one hypothesis: Ideas have consequences. And the assertion has taken root that Americans are so polarized and ideologically sorted that persuasion is a fool’s errand.

Since Bill Clinton, every U.S. president has essentially bought into this premise, despite all of them except Trump having explicitly campaigned as game-changing uniters. Bush and Obama won re-election with this formula, which probably explains why it isn’t easily abandoned, even as the trajectory of America this time at least feels like it has been headed downard. Biden had a fresh opportunity to break the cycle, but he has instead followed the path of his predecessors.

That aside, his even more fundamental problem is a lack of competence. We saw this in Afghanistan, where the dubious decision to withdraw all U.S. troops was compounded by the hamfisted manner in which the withdrawal was executed. And this same lack of competence is evident when it comes to Biden’s stalled legislative agenda.

If Biden was going to make the foolish decision to link the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the reconciliation bill, he could have first made sure he had all 50 Democratic Senators on board.

It’s no surprise that Manchin, who hails from West Virginia, would pose a roadblock when it comes to passing the Democrats’ “green” agenda items, so discussions with him should have begun on day one. Instead, Biden and the Democrats tried to jam their own framework through—and retroactively sell it to him.

Of course, it’s even more complicated, since Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema is the other holdout. Unlike previous examples where duos like recalcitrant Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine could be won over simultaneously, Manchin’s problems with the bill (mainly climate related) are entirely different from Sinema’s (generally having to do with taxes). And don’t forget the fact that appeasing them too much could alienate other, more progressive, Democratic votes. This is just one big mess.

And the problem for Biden (and America) is that the problems keep piling up. China is menacing Taiwan and testing hypersonic weapons (Biden says we will defend Taiwan if they are attacked). Gas prices are up, with Biden admitting they’re not coming down any time soon. And then there is the ongoing supply chain crisis.

Biden’s problems are piling up so fast that it reminds me of lyrics from Hank Williams, Jr., “The interest is up and the stock market’s down. And you only get mugged if you go downtown.”

Those lyrics, recorded in 1981, reflected those dark times. It’s worth noting that Ronald Reagan went on to win 49 states, three years later.

Joe Biden better hope for a similar turnaround.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Jake Tapper Says Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Has ‘Issues’ After Her Rant On Bannon Vote

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CNN’s Jake Tapper came down hard on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Friday, declaring she has “real issues” and is “not tethered to reality.”

He was referring to Greene’s outburst Thursday when, as described by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), she “started screaming” at Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

The House was voting to support the criminal contempt resolution against Donald Trump’s former White House strategist Steve Bannon after Bannon ignored a subpoena to testify before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Greene blasted fellow lawmakers for not punishing Black Lives Matter protesters and singled out Cheney by calling her a “joke.” Cheney, in turn, said Greene was a “joke” who has pushed the wild claim that Jewish-funded “space lasers” were responsible for wildfires.

“Congressman Raskin and Congresswoman Cheney are talking on the floor and, according to my sources …. Congresswoman Greene goes over to them and she starts screaming at them,” Tapper said to his CNN co-hosts.

“Look, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I don’t know her, but her behavior suggests somebody that has real issues, that is not tethered to reality or basic standards of decent behavior,” Tapper said.

He also referred to Greene’s conspiracy theory that “wealthy Jewish Americans were using laser technology to cause fires in California for some financial incentive.”

“I mean, it is a deranged anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and yet that is somebody with whom many Republicans are siding,” Tapper added.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene and Liz Cheney really represent the two doors for the Republican Party right now. Which one does the Republican Party want to emulate?” he asked.

Greene is known for her outbursts. Last month, she yelled at a group of Democrats as they held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol about legislation to guarantee the right to an abortion. Greene loudly interjected that “unborn women” have a “right to life.”

Greene has repeatedly shouted at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez said Greene needed “help” from a “proper professional.

Check out Tapper’s remarks in the video clip up top. His comments about Greene begin at about 0:36.

Also on HuffPost

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.





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Biden proves himself unaware of basic economics during Baltimore town hall: 'The Five'

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Biden proves himself unaware of basic economics during Baltimore town hall: 'The Five'



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Family’s new dog attacks and kills 7-year-old boy, Oklahoma cops say. ‘Gut-wrenching’

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A 7-year-old boy was killed Wednesday when his family’s new pet dog attacked him, Oklahoma officials say.

Deputies in Creek County were dispatched around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday for reports of a missing child, the sheriff’s office said. Fifteen minutes later and not long after deputies arrived on the scene, a family member found the body of the boy, according to the sheriff.

The boy was identified by KOCO as James McNeelis, who was playing outside with the dog before it attacked him. Family members told KJRH the dog was a sheltie-corgi mix and they only had it for three weeks after rescuing it as a stray.

Shannon Edison, a neighbor of the family, described the incident as “gut-wrenching” in an interview with KOTV.

“We knew something was wrong. As a mother, you know that scream, if anybody has ever heard that scream, you know that scream,” Edison said. “Something was catastrophically wrong.”

The sheriff’s office said an animal control facility has possession of the dog.

Family dog attacks and kills 6-month-old in Tennessee, officials say

Dog with jaws locked on smaller dog’s throat shot by officer, Colorado police say

Young child dashes for help as 120-pound dog kills mom in home, Oregon officials say



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Joey Logano not sure fighting is "ever the right way"

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Joey Logano not sure fighting is "ever the right way"



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Matt Gaetz Gives Himself, Boebert And Taylor Greene A Nickname And It Doesn’t Go Well

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Matt Gaetz Gives Himself, Boebert And Taylor Greene A Nickname And It Doesn’t Go Well



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Ashanti’s Seductive Bikini Video Ignites a Social Media Commotion, Fans Bring Up Singer’s Ex Nelly

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Ashanti‘s month-long birthday celebration known as “Shantober” appeared to be in full effect on Oct. 21 after she uploaded a sultry bikini video.

The singer, who turned 41 last week, is currently in the Bahamas with friends as she commemorates her birthday.

Ashanti’s new bikini video from her Bahamas vacation. (Photo: @ashanti/Instagram)

In the short clip first posted by her stylist Tim B, Ashanti was seen enjoying the festivities as she danced on what appears to be a boat in a beaded turquoise bikini complemented with a tiara and two ribbons pinned to her swimsuit straps.

When “The Shade Room” posted Ashanti’s bikini video on the site’s Instagram page, many flooded the comment section with remarks about her ex Nelly. A few even brought up the infamous hug that occurred between the two last month.

“Y’all better stop before Nelly come thru the phone screen to ask for a Hug.”

“Nelly bout to walk across the Atlantic to get a hug.”

“No wonder Nelly went for that hug trying to rekindle a flame that’s been blazing by itself.”

“Nelly somewhere snatching that band-aid off.”

“Nelly somewhere figuring it out.”

Ashanti commented on her viral bikini video that was posted on “The Shade Room.” Photo:theshaderoom/Instagram

Ashanti commented on her viral bikini video that was posted on “The Shade Room.” Photo:theshaderoom/Instagram

In addition to the Nelly statements, Ashanti commented that the video was all in good fun by saying, “My birthday month!!”

Last week on Oct. 13, Ashanti celebrated her actual birthday by going to dinner with family and friends in New York. The singer also took Instagram to explain how priceless it is to celebrate life with those you love.

She said, “Super overwhelmed with the birthday wishes. I’m grateful to God that I wake up to so much love…and so many blessings. Incredibly grateful for another year. One thing we’ve all seen is that tomorrow isn’t promised… Being surrounded by friends and family, celebrating life is priceless. Thank you to each and everyone of you for all the love!!! I genuinely appreciate it from my heart 10/13.”





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