Watchdog faults Obama's Afghan security strategy

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 26, 2011 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's $11.4 billion plan to bolster Afghanistan's security forces is "at risk" because of poor planning, a government watchdog agency concluded in a report released Wednesday.

Auditors with the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the U.S. government "could not provide the plans or justifications" for building nearly 900 police stations and garrisons and other facilities for Afghanistan's national security forces.

The report confirms earlier findings in a series late last year by McClatchy that found the ambitious strategy, like much of the wider Afghan reconstruction effort, is faltering. The program is a linchpin of President Barack Obama's strategy to strengthen Afghan security forces so 100,000 U.S. troops can come home by the end of 2014.

While American policymakers struggle to resuscitate the U.S. economy, American taxpayers are financing an unprecedented construction boom in Afghanistan for new schools and clinics, electricity and water and roads and bridges.

McClatchy also discovered that dozens of structures across the country either were poorly constructed or never completed at all. Tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers who were supposed to be living in garrisons were still housed in tents.

In response to the auditors' report, Military officials acknowledged problems with their plans, but said they'd since taken steps that address them.

SIGAR also pointed out that the U.S. government doesn't have a long-term strategy for maintaining the buildings.

"The government of Afghanistan does not have the financial or technical capacity to sustain" buildings once they are completed, the auditors concluded.

As a result, the U.S. has awarded two contracts to ITT Corp. totaling $800 million to help maintain the facilities.

Although it had previously violated export laws, ITT got the contract. The firm admitted in 2007 to sending classified materials to foreign nations, including China.

McClatchy found that ITT's work was one of nearly $4.5 billion in contracts in Afghanistan that were awarded to companies even though they violated laws or had high-profile disputes over previous projects.

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