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U.S. policy a paper tiger against sex trade in war zones

In another allegation, a former guard with the Blackwater security firm said he saw colleagues and U.S. soldiers paying Iraqi girls for sex acts. The allegations surfaced in a federal lawsuit filed last summer in the Eastern District of Virginia that alleged wrongful death and abuse on behalf of families of Iraqi victims. But the anonymous statement detailing the allegations was withdrawn by the Iraqi families, who agreed to a settlement in January.

The former guard, who asked that his name not be used out of concern for his safety, said that in 2005, he watched older boys collect dollar bills while Iraqi girls, some as young as 12 or 13, performed sex acts. The former guard said that he reported what he saw to his Blackwater superiors but that no action was taken. "It sickens me to talk about it even now," he said.

The former Blackwater guard also said he provided the information to a grand jury, but the Justice Department would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Stacy DeLuke, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, said the firm "vehemently denies these anonymous and baseless allegations." She said Xe policies forbid human trafficking.

Brothels in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, evidence of trafficking came to light when 90 Chinese women were freed after brothel raids in 2006 and 2007. The women told the International Organization on Migration that they had been taken to Afghanistan for sexual exploitation, according to a 2008 report.

Nigina Mamadjonova, head of IOM's counter-human trafficking unit in Afghanistan, said the women alleged in interviews that their clients were mostly Western men.

In late 2007, officials at ArmorGroup, which provides U.S. Embassy security in Kabul, learned that some employees frequented brothels that were disguised as Chinese restaurants and that the employees might be engaged in sex trafficking. A company whistleblower has alleged in an ongoing lawsuit that the firm withheld the information from the U.S. government.

James Gordon, then an ArmorGroup supervisor, alleged that a manager "boasted openly about owning prostitutes in Kabul" and that a company trainee boasted that he hoped to make some "real money" in brothels and planned to buy a woman for $20,000.

Gordon said he warned his bosses and also alerted Heidi McMichael, a State Department contracting officer.

Months later, Gordon said, he asked McMichael why no action had been taken, and she told him that the matter had been referred to the FBI. She declined to comment, as did the bureau. Gordon said that the trainee was fired but that no other action was taken.

Susan Pitcher, a spokesman for ArmorGroup's parent company, Wackenhut Services, said in an e-mail that the company would not respond to Gordon's allegations. She stressed that ArmorGroup policies prohibit trafficking.

An internal corporate investigation in November 2007 found that a Kabul program manager knew that some workers had violated company policies by "seeking out prostitutes."

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