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US contractors paid millions for incomplete projects in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: March 17, 2016)

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After six years of inspection reports, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has a decidedly mixed review of U.S. Defense Department reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

In testimony delivered to the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, SIGAR John Sopko commented that although his organization’s reports cover only a fraction of the Pentagon’s reconstruction projects.

A new review of 36 inspection reports by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) covering 44 reconstruction projects with a combined value of $1.1 billion found serious problem in a majority cases.

Sixty-three percent of the projects failed to meet the requirements of the contract or technical specifications, 36 percent were structurally unsound or hazardous to the occupants, and a roughly a quarter were delayed, including one more than two and half years behind schedule.

Many contractors who performed shoddy work were still paid the full contract amount. Roughly one-third of completed projects are still vacant, and contractors usually received full payment for poorly built and late projects.

But continued corruption, political instability and a lack of resources in Afghanistan mean the Afghan government isn’t able to operate the facilities independently, and American taxpayers are on the hook until they can.

“Currently, it is unclear when the Afghan government will be able to take over this responsibility,” Sopko said in statements prepared for a hearing on DOD Afghanistan construction projects before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Until it is able to do so, U.S. taxpayer funds will continue to be expended to sustain the facilities DOD has built for the Afghans.”

It remains unclear how, or even if, the Afghan government and its national security forces will be able to take responsibility for the facilities the U.S. is paying for. Until then, the SIGAR office warns, American taxpayers will have to continue paying for the Defense Department projects.

Bathkhak School in Kabul province, for example, “had such serious design and construction flaws” that inspectors urged a delay in transferring the school to the Afghan government.

Inspectors found “collapsible soil due to poor compaction; improperly installed heating and cooling systems; inoperable water systems; inadequate testing of mechanical systems; electrical wiring that was not up to code; use of substandard building materials; poorly mixed, cured, and reinforced concrete; and improperly installed roofs.”

Despite these reports, the inspector general is optimistic about the future and points to two signs that the situation on the ground may change: The Defense Department has implemented almost 80 percent of the recommendations the agency has made, and the government in Afghanistan under the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani has pledged to fight corruption – an endemic issue across all federal offices and ranks considered the key contributor to the government’s woes.

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Afghanistan Cricket Board lifts playing ban on Riaz Hassan

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(Last Updated On: July 14, 2020)

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has announced that Riaz Hassan, Afghanistan U19 National Team player’s three-year ban has been lifted by ACB after almost 15 months.

The ACB Discipline Committee said that upon showcasing better ability, Hassan can participate in formal and informal games.

Riaz Hassan is a batsman in Afghanistan U19 National Team, who during a Tri-series with India and South Africa, was banned due to disciplinary violations in India.

“Riaz Hassan was banned for three years due to disciplinary violation. However, Hassan contacted ACB and sought mercy while expressing regret over his previous actions and violations. Taking that into consideration and based on section 30 of the principles of Discipline Committee, approved by CEO and endorsed by ACB Chairman, he was pardoned his remainder of the time,” read ACB Discipline Committee decision.

The Board further said that in addition to the HR principles, the Afghanistan Cricket Board also has disciplinary rules for player violations that apply to their intentional and unintentional mistakes.

Meanwhile, the ACB said Tuesday that all National Team players were tested for COVID-19 fortunately, “all players tested negative.”

The players were tested upon the completion of a recently concluded training camp as an added precautionary measure to fight the spread of the Coronavirus, the ACB tweeted.

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Khalilzad says first phase of US-Taliban agreement completed

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(Last Updated On: July 14, 2020)

The United States said that it has implemented the first phase of the US-Taliban agreement which was inked in Doha, the capital of Qatar.  

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said the US and Taliban have reached day 135, “a key milestone in implementation of the US-Taliban Agreement.”

“The U.S. has worked hard to carry out the 1st phase of its commitments under the Agreement, including to reduce forces and depart five bases,” Khalilzad said.

He added that NATO troops in Afghanistan have been downed in “proportional number.”

Although, the first of the agreement was completed the Taliban and the Afghan government yet to remove obstacles – including prisoner releases and reducing violence – ahead of the intra-Afghan talks, where the two sides would sit in direct talks to discuss further steps including a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.

Khalilzad said that there has been major progress in this regard, “albeit slow, on prisoner releases.”

“And violence has been high, especially in recent days and weeks. Afghans continue to die in large numbers for no reason,” the US Envoy noted. 

It comes as the Taliban militant group attacked an office of the Afghan National Directorate of Security in Aybak city of Samangan province, killing or wounded dozens of civilians that Afghan forces.

Khalilzad has condemned the attack saying that it was contradicted their commitment to reducing violence until a permanent ceasefire is reached in intra-Afghan talks.

“We condemn today’s attack. The use of major explosives to detonate a vehicle in a provincial capital is unacceptable and will strengthen those who oppose peace and plays into the hands of spoilers. All sides must reduce violence,” he tweeted.

Khalilzad said that the US is seeking to implement the next of the Doha agreement, “our approach will remain conditions-based.” 

The United States will press for “completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence, complete delivery on CT commitments and start of and progress in intra-Afghan negotiations.”

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US soldier dies in ‘non-combat-related incident’ – Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 14, 2020)

The US Department of Defense said Monday that an American soldier died in Afghanistan on, July 12, 2020.

Pentagon said in a statement that the soldier has lost his life as a result of a non-combat-related incident in southern Kandahar province.

The incident is under investigation, the statement noted.

The statement identified the soldier as 1st Lt. Joseph Trent Allbaugh, 24, from Folsom, California.

“Allbaugh was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 108th ADA Brigade, Fort Campbell, Kentucky,” the statement said.

It comes as earlier this month; an American soldier was killed in a vehicle accident in Farah province.

The soldier was later identified as Spc. Vincent Sebastian Ibarria, 21, from San Antonio, Texas, US.

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