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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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Republic’s peace team fully prepped for next round of talks: Abdullah

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said Sunday that the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team will accelerate the peace talks in Doha.

Addressing a virtual meeting with the ambassadors of a number of foreign countries and representatives of international entities in Kabul, Abdullah stressed the importance of regional and international consensus around the ongoing peace talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

“I cannot stress more on the need for consensus in the region and also consensus-building, with our partners in the international community, party participation of your excellencies… today shows the keenness on the part of our partners,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah stated that the Afghan team arrived in Doha on time and is ready to negotiate with full authority on any issue related to the agenda.

“They left Kabul reassured of broad consensus about the pursuit of negotiations on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and presenting a unified voice together that is what they are doing,” Abdullah said.

He added that a comprehensive ceasefire and a reduction in violence are the priorities of the Afghan peace team.

“When it comes to us, of course, achieving an inclusive peaceful settlement is our goal and preserving that achievement of the past 20 years and the sacrifices which are the results of the sacrifices of our people and these are the guiding principles for our negotiating team,” Abdullah noted.

The peace talks resumed 12 days ago in Doha after the Republic’s team and the Taliban’s team took a three-week break.

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Ghani threatens to fire Balkh security chiefs over boy’s kidnapping

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani has threatened to fire security chiefs in Balkh province if they fail to locate and rescue the abducted nine-year-old boy, Abdul Rauf.

Abdul Rauf was kidnapped three months ago, by armed men in military uniforms, from PD4 of Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh.

After the abduction, a video released on social media showed the child blindfolded and chained up naked, in bitterly cold temperatures.

The child in the video was heard begging his parents to do everything they can to secure his release.

Ghani’s spokesman Dawa Khan Meenapal wrote on Twitter Saturday that all security officials in Balkh will be fired if they fail to rescue the child.

Meanwhile, the Balkh governor Farhad Azimi Balkh stated that the Afghan forces have conducted several operations in the hope of rescuing the boy.

According to Azimi, a number of security forces have been wounded during these attempts.

Azimi said the boy’s relatives claim Taliban militants have also detained eight people in connection with the abduction.

No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

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NSA says govt will maintain peace by force if talks fail

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

The National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib said on Sunday that government will maintain peace by force if intra-Afghan peace negotiations currently underway in Doha fail.

Speaking during a visit to the southern province of Helmand to assess the security situation, Mohib told Afghan soldiers that the Afghan security and defense forces have the capability of eliminating the armed opposition.

“Those (Taliban) who do not want, despite government’s willingness to compromise; but they want to fuel insecurity in the country and disturb the people; if it is not achieved via dialogue (peace), we will maintain peace by force.”

Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Commander of US forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller on Saturday met with the Taliban delegation in Doha to discuss issues around peace negotiations.

The Taliban delegation led by the group’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar discussed the importance and implementation of the agreement and the current situation of the country with the US officials, the Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem said.

“All sides emphasized that issues should be solved via dialogue and every side should fairly fulfill its responsibilities in this regard,” Naeem tweeted.

The Taliban also discussed “the issue of the release of its remaining detainees and the removal of [their members from the US] Blacklist, which are the text and important items of the [US-Taliban] agreement.”

“The lack of total implementation of the agreement, and especially not taking serious measures about the above mentioned two articles, which should have been acted on to the large extent, can affect the ongoing process of negotiations,” Naeem stated.

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