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Debauchery at U.S. Embassy in Kabul?

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In what can only be described as a homoerotic homage to Lord of the Flies, explicit photos released Wednesday that show debauchery among a group of security contractors hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has left State Department officials stumbling to explain why it had not taken action sooner against the renegade workers.

The photos, available here, show security employees at Corona-fueled parties in various states of undress -- some urinating on themselves, others drinking vodka shots from the buttocks of fellow colleagues.

The guards are employees of Virginia-based ArmorGroup North America, which is responsible for the safety of 1,000 diplomats and aides who work in the embassy, and is now at the center of a government inquiry.

According to a 10-page letter written by an independent watchdog group to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, State Department officials were aware of misconduct, hazing, and intimidation at the hands of ArmorGroup supervisors, but failed to intervene.

The watchdog group, Project on Government Oversight, determined that not all of the ArmorGroup employees participated willingly, and some worked in a "climate of fear and coercion."

"Some guards have reported barricading themselves in their rooms for fear that those carrying out the hazing will harm them physically," the report said. "Others have reported that [ArmorGroup North America] management has begun to conduct a witch hunt to identify employees who have provided information about this atmosphere to [Project on Government Oversight]."

In a Wednesday press conference, State Department spokesman Ian C. Kelly told reporters that the misconduct could lead to the termination of ArmorGroup's $189 million contract, which has been renewed twice and is currently effective until July 2010. "We expect to see prompt and effective action taken as a result of these investigations," Kelly said.

Part Abu-Ghraib, part fraternity party, the photos surfaced at a particularly sensitive time for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. In August, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael G. Mullen characterized the war against Taliban insurgents as "deteriorating," and emphasized that the war effort requires more than the 68,000 American troops currently approved by the Obama administration.

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