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DUBAI, Aug 9, (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.