Bunker 22 was supposed to be the place where weapons and ammo intended for use by Afghan National Police would be kept.

But for Blackwater contractors in country to train Afghan forces, Bunker 22 became a kind of ATM for pistols and AK-47s — with many weapons withdrawn, some not returned, and some used in bloody incidents that left one contractor partially paralyzed and, later, two Afghan civilians dead.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has been looking into the work environment of the company at the heart of a May 9, 2009, shooting of Afghan civilians that officials say jeopardized U.S. diplomatic relations with the Karzai government. While officially known as Paravant, the contracted company was a wholly-owned operation of controversial Blackwater and was doing business in Afghanistan under contract from Raytheon Technical Services Company. (Blackwater now goes by the name of Xe.)

Former Paravant officials, along with Army officials connected to the Raytheon contract and the Afghan training program, were scheduled to be questioned Tuesday morning by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has been investigating the shootings. Two Parvant employees, Justin Cannon and Christopher Drotleff, have been indicted by the Justice Department in connection with the May 2009 shootings.

During a press briefing at his office in Washington, committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., described an operation that was out of control and without proper supervision, where weapons were checked out without authorization and put into the hands of men unauthorized to carry them, and where one training team’s “wild idea” in December 2008 to practice firing from the back of a moving car resulted in an AK-47 round to the head of one of their own. That contractor was flown to Germany for treatment; he survived but is partially paralyzed.

While Raytheon reported the incident to an Army contracting officer, there is no indication the Army followed up, according to Levin, and so it did not become known “that Paravant contractors were using weapons unsafely, improperly, with inadequate supervision, [and] were carrying weapons that were not supposed to be in their possession at all.”

He also said Blackwater failed to properly vet contractors it hired, saying the two men indicted had poor military records. Court records refer to Drotleff having an “extensive criminal history,” and a “propensity for violence,” according to Levin, who also noted in a written statement a media report that Cannon had gone UA from the Army and tested positive for cocaine.

“Had corrective action been taken back in December of ’08, the May 2009 tragedy could have been avoided,” he said. “So reckless behavior by Paravant contractors helped set the stage, government oversight failed [and] thirdly, Blackwater broke the rules relating to weapons. Our investigation shows that Blackwater obtained hundreds of weapons, including over 500 AK-47s, from a place called Bunker 22,” for distribution to their contract people.

Levin said Bunker 22, in Pol-e Charki near Kabul, is a facility for storing weapons and ammunition that is to be used exclusively by Afghan National Police. Reading from a letter sent to him by Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, Levin said there is no policy, order, directive or instruction allowing for U.S. military contractors or subcontractors in Afghanistan to use weapons stored in Bunker 22.

Source: Bryant Jordan for

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