An audit by the US State Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG) found $8.4 million was spent on meals that were not needed at the US Embassy in Kabul last year.
In a report released on Tuesday, the IG stated “the number of meals estimated in the task order for option year 4 (2019) was higher than it should have been, resulting in the Department paying almost $8.4 million for meals it did not need and that were not provided.”
Poor oversight by US company DynCorp International, which has the contract to provide meals, security and other services to the US Embassy in Kabul, cost the State Department millions more than necessary, the report stated.
The IG also stated that because of poor record keeping the US can’t recover the $8.4 million paid for the meals and also can’t be sure DynCorp followed the terms of its contract.
The State Department has paid DynCorp about $353 million since 2015 to provide food, security, and medical and other services and as per contract stipulations, DynCorp was to provide three meals a day, seven days a week, at a rate of about $21 each to cafeterias at the US Embassy and other consular facilities, the audit said.
DynCorp receives a fixed amount to provide about 2.9 million meals each year but the actual number of meals needed has dropped over the past few years as Embassy staff levels steadily decreased.
However, a contracting officer last year based meals on 2016 personnel figures, the IG said.
“The Department did not consider the declining number of personnel living and working at the embassy compound and outlying US Government facilities,” the report said.
In November, the State Department finally reduced the number of meals required, bringing down food costs by 29 percent. Had the change been made earlier, the Department could have saved $8.4 million in 2019, the report said.
The audit also found the State Department’s contracting officers and representatives could not tell auditors how food quality standards were monitored, and said they lost their monthly oversight checklists during a computer upgrade.
DynCorp also could not provide 27 percent of the required documents checking sanitation, quality control and proof that goods had been received.
It also failed to develop a plan to reduce costs over time, as it had said it would when it secured the contract, the audit said.
NATO to provide provisional funding to help run Kabul airport
NATO has not yet decided on who would run the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul once foreign troops have withdrawn, the organization’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Monday night.
Stoltenberg said however that Turkey would play a “key role” in running the airport and that NATO is committed to providing transitional funding for the key facility.
This comes after Turkey offered to run and guard the airport after the withdrawal of troops.
However, the Taliban issued a warning and said such a move would be a “mistake” and that any country doing so would be considered invaders.
“The presence of foreign forces under whatever name or by whichever country in our homeland is unacceptable for the Afghan people and the Islamic Emirate (Taliban),” the group cautioned in a statement.
The Taliban insisted that the security of airports, foreign embassies, and diplomatic offices is the responsibility of Afghans, saying that “no one should hold out hope of keeping military or security presence” in Afghanistan.
In a communique issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the NATO Summit, it was stated that NATO will retain a Senior Civilian Representative’s Office in Kabul to continue diplomatic engagement and enhance its partnership with Afghanistan.
“Recognising its importance to an enduring diplomatic and international presence, as well as to Afghanistan’s connectivity with the world, NATO will provide transitional funding to ensure the continued functioning of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the communique read.
“We will also step up dialogue on Afghanistan with relevant international and regional partners. We continue to support the ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, and call on all stakeholders to help Afghanistan foster a lasting inclusive political settlement that puts an end to violence; safeguards the human rights of Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; upholds the rule of law; and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.”
NATO looking at setting up training base for Afghan forces in Qatar
Security officials under NATO command have approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan special forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, three senior Western officials told Reuters.
After two decades of war, forces from 36 countries involved in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan are set to pull out of the country in coordination with a U.S. troop withdrawal by September 11.
“We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.
The official, whose country is part of the U.S.-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan, requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with journalists.
An integral part of Resolute Support has been to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban, which was ousted from power in 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.
“We have made an offer but it is for authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington DC.
A third source, a diplomat based in Kabul, told Reuters bringing “Afghan special force members to Qatar for about four to six weeks of rigorous training” was under discussion.
Qatar’s government and NATO’s communications office did not respond to questions about the proposal to use the Gulf state as a base for training Afghan forces.
The Afghan government also did not respond to a request for comment.
Khalilzad says US ‘not leaving Afghanistan’ despite troop pullout
The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said the United States will not abandon the war-torn country even after the withdrawal of its forces.
Addressing a press conference during his visit to Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan on Sunday, Khalilzad said: “Our forces are leaving Afghanistan, but the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. We will work hard for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”
“We will continue our security assistance, and we will continue our economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan,” he added.
This comes as concerns continue to grown around the uncertainty in Kabul amid a spike in violence and stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Republic.
In Nur-Sultan, Khalilzad said he regularly discusses Afghanistan with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative Zamir Kabulov, RFE\RL reported Monday.
“Russia and the United States are working well together in promoting peace in Afghanistan,” according to him.
Khalilzad is currently on a visit to the region in a drive to muster support for the peace process ahead of the US and NATO troops withdrawal, which is expected to be finalized by September 11.
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