A recent email invited me to the “2nd Afghanistan Aviation & Defense Summit” (AADS), to be held this month in Washington. The organizers advertise the conference as an opportunity to “aid in the recovery process of Afghanistan and help in the effective implementation of the country’s development programs.” The war-oriented title of the summit tells the real story, while the development theme appears as a public relations cover.
Washington adeptly promotes such humanitarian façades for its Afghan policy. When you scratch the surface, a different reality appears. The AADS website - http://new-fields.com/aads2/organizer.php - illustrates this. The content starkly contradicts the conference’s announced development aims. Images abound of soldiers armed to the teeth, as well as tanks, military helicopters and other war-making hardware. A number of large military-security companies are listed as sponsors of the event. One of them, AECOM, regularly feeds at the Pentagon trough. The company recently won a $1.4 billion contract to maintain combat systems, logistics and transportation services, and work in what is euphemistically called “force protection.” Who knows what lethal programs AECOM is proposing for the booming contract business in Afghanistan?
The summit offers negligible time for policy presentations, but a generous five-hundred and ten minutes for coffee and lunch. Evidently, the military-security contractors need plenty of time to get cozy with Afghan government ministers, CIA procurement people, Pentagon contracting officers and the like. The companies want to capitalize on the war. For them – and for the war-policy crowd in Washington -- that’s just business-as-usual.