In the wake of our story about DynCorp's ill-fated Afghan dance party, DynCorp's vice president of communications Ashley Vanarsdall Burke has sent in an official response.
The company says that there was no truth to the allegation made in the headline "Texas Company Helped Pimp Little Boys To Stoned Afghan Cops" or several other allegations made in official cables from the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan that were publicized by WikiLeaks.
We were taken to task for not contacting them first and then Burke laid out the "facts" as the company sees them.
Burke stated that "a handful of individuals were found to have exercised extremely poor judgment and acted inappropriately. It is important to note, however, that the inaccurate and bizarre allegations contained in your story are false and recklessly irresponsible."
What really happened, according to Burke, was this:
As part of an employee's going away party, a 17 year old local Afghan dancer who performed at local events such as weddings and other celebrations, was hired to perform a traditional Afghan dance. Recognizing that the situation was culturally insensitive, a site manager stopped the performance. Despite the fact that the performance was stopped, the situation was investigated. What was determined was that the leadership of the team exhibited poor judgment and were subsequently terminated. That is the whole story; no alcohol or drugs were involved, or other illegal behaviors occurred."
After the party was stopped, even though the whole thing was apparently an innocent cultural misunderstanding, the company believed that "extremely poor judgment" had been shown and felt compelled to take several actions in response. These included, in Burke's words, the following:
Thorough Investigation. A thorough investigation of the incident found extremely poor judgment by a handful of employees and managers. Immediate
Face-to-Face Training. Directly following the incident, DynCorp International senior leadership flew in-country to provide face-to-face ethics and compliance training to personnel at each of the regional training centers.
Enhanced Program-wide Training. The leadership of this program also provided additional program-wide ethics and compliance training for all personnel, including enhanced training on the Code of Ethics and Business Conduct and reiterating program requirements for the behavior of all personnel.
Since then, and unrelated to this incident, Burke says, the company has beefed up its ethics in many ways including enhancing their code of ethics and business conduct; reviewing, revising and strengthening the company's business practices; hiring a chief compliance officer; and setting up a 24-hour hotline for whistleblowers and a training program that focuses "specifically on behaviors that support successful teams."
Burke granted that no "company can guarantee that their employees will behave perfectly at all times, under all conditions," but said that the company can guarantee that expectations will be clearly defined, employees will be trained to adhere to those expectations, and people will be held accountable. "We will also act swiftly and consistently if shortcomings are identified," which they did do in the wake of this traditional dance gone apparently awry.
We responded with some follow-up questions:
We asked Burke :If nothing untoward happened at the "traditional" dance, as you seem to imply, why then was the dance stopped? And why were such extensive investigations launched, and why were so many people terminated and/or arrested? Why have so many (commendable) steps been taken in the wake of this incident?
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Burke responded thusly:" As noted in the statement, 'Recognizing that the situation was culturally insensitive, a site manager stopped the performance.'"
In response to her claim that no drugs were involved, we pointed that Hair Balls did not invent that allegation out of whole cloth, that it had been mentioned by Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar in the original cable signed by the US Ambassador. We asked Burke again if there were drugs involved, and if so, what kind, and who was using and/or purchasing them.
Burke's response: "If your second question is a reference to a cable, I cannot comment on and have no information on the contents of any cable. You would need to go to the source of the cable for clarification on that."
Although the cable went out under the name of Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, it discussed a meeting between Atmar and Eikenberry's underling Joseph Mussomeli. The source of the concern about drugs was Atmar, who has since lost his post. Since much of the leaked cable concerned Atmar's deep concern that any news about this "Kunduz DynCorp problem" would reach the media, we won't hold our breath waiting for him to elaborate on one of the more explosive allegations.