Video: U.S. embassy in Kabul to be investigated

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 9/4/2009 10:42:51 AM ET 2009-09-04T14:42:51

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said Friday it had fired eight guards following allegations of lewd conduct and sexual misconduct in their living quarters. Two other guards had resigned, the embassy said in a statement.

All of them appeared in photographs that surfaced this week depicting guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol. The 10 men left the country on Friday, the statement said.

The embassy said the local management team of ArmorGroup North America, the private contractor that provides the guards, is also "being replaced immediately."

The embassy also said that a team from the Office of the Inspector General had arrived in the Afghan capital, where it would conduct an investigation.

Clinton ‘genuinely offended’
The scandal surfaced this week when the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based independent watchdog group, said that guards were subjected to abuse, threats and hazing by supervisors and that a "Lord of the Flies" environment prevailed at the  guard's living quarters.

The "Lord of the Flies" reference is to a novel about a group of British schoolboys stranded on a desert island who try, but fail, to govern themselves in a chaotic setting.

On Thursday, a State Department spokesman said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was "genuinely offended" by the reports of misconduct.

Spokesman P.J. Crowley had warned then that those who engaged in such activities would be dismissed.

Clinton "is very displeased that this could have happened and that this could have happened without our knowledge," Crowley said.

Prostitutes brought into living quarters
In at least one case, supervisors allegedly brought prostitutes into the quarters where the guards live, a serious breach of security and discipline, the watchdog said in its report.

In other instances, members of the guard force had drawn Afghans into activities forbidden by Muslims, such as drinking alcoholic beverages.

"This violated our values," Crowley said. "This potentially compromised ... the important work of the United States embassy in Kabul."

The State Department has insisted security at the embassy in Kabul, one of the country's most important diplomatic outposts, hasn't been compromised.

ArmorGroup was awarded the $189 million security contract in March 2007 and has been repeatedly warned of performance deficiencies. Wackenhut Services, ArmorGroup's parent company, referred all questions to the State Department. Spokeswoman Susan Pitcher said the company is fully cooperating with the State Department's investigation.

Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, was actively involved in the inquiry, Crowley said. About 60 people have already been interviewed.

Alcohol has been prohibited at Camp Sullivan, the offsite location near the embassy where the ArmorGroup guards live, and diplomatic security staff have been assigned to the camp, according to the embassy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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